Rory Darge reflects on first Scotland start as flanker is praised for ‘outstanding’ display against France

If Scotland appeared to be at sixes and sevens at times against France there was at least some solace to be drawn from the performance of Rory Darge.

The Glasgow Warriors flanker was making his first start for his country and performed admirably, scoring the first-half try which brought the home side back into the game before France ran away with things.

Darge drew praise from both his coach and captain in the aftermath of the 36-17 defeat, particularly for his work on turnovers. The East Lothian man made more successful tackles (eight) than any other Scotland player and also had the best carrying stats of anyone on the field (14 carries).

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There was some drama for Darge to cope with in the build-up. Originally selected at six, he was switched to seven on the eve of the game after Hamish Watson returned a positive Covid test.

With Gregor Townsend keen to field two opensides against France, the late switch didn’t disrupt Darge’s preparations too much.

“The coaches managed what was a fairly late pull-out and managed to keep the role fairly similar for myself, so it wasn’t too much to adjust to, which is obviously good for your first start,” said the 22-year-old.

“Obviously it was a proud moment leading up to the anthems and to get that score, but at the end of the day it’s a loss so I’m pretty gutted with the result - mixed emotions.

“I was a bit nervous before the game, because it’s your first start at a new level. You obviously have . . . not doubts, but nervousness about how you’re going to fare. I think I was still confident, but I did have those nerves in the back of my mind.”

Rory Darge marked his first Scotland with a try. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
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Darge felt the speed of the game was the biggest difference.

“It was very fast and something that I’ve not experienced much,” he said. “When we played La Rochelle at home [in the Champions Cup] it was similar in terms of the pace and how quick ball was. In terms of physicality it was maybe a bit of a step up as well, but it’s still a game of rugby.”

Gregor Townsend thought that the choice of Karl Dickson as referee would suit two natural opensides, although Nick Haining had to step in to replace Watson when the latter tested positive.

Rory Darge admitted to nerves ahead of his first Scotland start but the flanker's performance against France drew praise from Gregor Townsend. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
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“Karl Dickson rewards jackals,” noted the coach. “That is one of the reasons we went into the game with two opensides and you saw as the game played out you were getting rewarded for jackals.

“At times we did well in that area, especially Rory. I thought Rory was outstanding in defence and attack and his ball carrying was really good. The effort he put in for 80 minutes was superb but defence is not just about jackals and winning turnovers at the rucks. It is about other things. It is about forcing teams back counter rucking, getting rips.

“You saw France got three rips against us in the last ten, 15 minutes. That is a team thing. Not everybody is going to be a jackaler, but we must make sure as a team we are putting pressure on oppositon ball in defence. We know we can improve in that area, just like we can improve in attack.”

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