Defeat can be a chastening experience for young players, especially those who are usually high on confidence. Self-doubt creeps in, and voices – sometimes internal, sometimes those of older, wiser colleagues – start to advocate caution. Play it safe, cut down on the risks, think defensively, they suggest.
Well, if George Horne and Adam Hastings heard those voices, they certainly succeeded in ignoring them. The scrum-half and stand-off may have come off second best against the USA, but a week later against the Pumas they were completely on top of their opponents. It was an outstanding display from the Scotland half-backs, and after the 44-15 win Horne was in an understandably exuberant mood.
“It was just great fun,” he said. “It’s the second time I’ve had the honour of pulling on the jersey and it was a really enjoyable game.
“We spoke a lot about last week and bouncing back from what was a really disappointing performance from us. I think you got that, especially in that first 20 minutes. We fronted up physically when they had the ball, we had a lot of good defensive sets and that put the marker down for what would happen in attack.
“When we got the ball, we expressed ourselves. We weren’t shy even when the conditions got a bit poor and we scored some cracking tries.
“We just go out to play. We want to throw the first punch and we’ve done that the last couple of weeks. Against Argentina, we backed it up and in the first 20 minutes we kind of ran away with it.”
The 23-year-old is well aware, of course, that he is far from the finished article. It was notable that, having talked with such pleasure about the game, he insisted that both he and Hastings knew they had a long way to go, as well as thanking head coach Gregor Townsend for keeping faith with them. “We’re still young and have a lot to learn, but it was a chance we wanted to take. The fact that Gregor put a bit of faith in us to bounce back from last week was good.
“The whole team played well and that helps the nine and 10. The forwards were outstanding. I was glad to get the opportunity and it was good we managed to play well for the team.”