Scotland v Tonga: Rory Darge can make the step up, says Gregor Townsend

Gregor Townsend says he would have no hesitation in handing Rory Darge his Scotland debut in Saturday’s Autumn Nations Series opener against Tonga.

Rory Darge has been outstanding since joining Glasgow Warriors from Edinburgh. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

The openside flanker has thrived since moving from Edinburgh to Glasgow Warriors in the spring and was named last week in the national squad.

With Hamish Watson nursing a lingering groin injury, Darge may get the nod to start against the Tongans at BT Murrayfield and Townsend believes he is ready for the step up.

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“Absolutely,” said the national coach. “He has shown when he has played at a higher level that he has not only looked comfortable but he has thrived at that level. That is a sign of a very good player.

Glasgow's Rufus McLean in action against the Emirates Lions in the United Rugby Championship. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS

“In Glasgow’s first game [this season] over in Ulster I thought he was the best player on the field and he has certainly thrived so far.”

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Darge, the former Scotland under-20 captain, has flourished since leaving Edinburgh and made his presence felt against for the Warriors again on Friday night, producing a brilliant last-gasp tackle to stop a third Leinster try in the 31-15 defeat. He was part of Scotland’s summer squad but was denied a cap on that occasion when the tour to eastern Europe was called off due to Covid issues.

The 21-year-old is not the only young Glasgow prospect in line for his international bow next week. Ross Thompson, the stand-off, looks certain to be involved, either from the start or on the bench, and there could also be a debut for Rufus McLean, the pacy winger who has also impressed Townsend. The Scotland head coach reckons he is the third fastest member of the Scotland squad behind Duhan van der Merwe and Stuart Hogg.

“There are a number of things we love about his game,” Townsend said of McLean. “He is so electric and so hard to defend against, and his work in contact is unusually good for a young player, and a winger.

“His kick-chase really helps the team as well. He wins a lot of kicks back in the air and is comfortable taking re-starts. That is another part of his game which has now become more important at international level. We have been really excited by how well he has played.”

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