Centre Peter Horne admits he wanted to “dig a hole and dive in” when his blunder helped Scotland lose their last Six Nations meeting with Italy, but believes he responded to the disappointment in the best possible way.
It was the dying minutes at BT Murrayfield 12 months ago and Scotland, after a flying start, were battling desperately to defend a 19-15 lead over the resurgent Italians. It looked to be job done when a penalty was won with the Azzurri pressing in the corner but, fatally, Horne missed touch and the visitors were given another chance to attack. It ended with Scotland illegally stopping a rolling maul and a penalty try was awarded to hand Italy only their second win in Edinburgh.
That devastating defeat sucked the life out of Scotland’s campaign and sent them spiralling towards a wooden spoon whitewash, with fears that a similar result in Rome this weekend could see the pattern repeated.
“That night I just wanted to dig a hole, dive in it and never come out ever again but the sun came up the next day and you have to face up and get on with it,” Horne reflected yesterday on last year’s trauma. “A bit of touch-kicking practice and I was all right.”
The Glasgow Warriors player is back to fitness after recovering from the foot injury he picked up in the second 1872 Cup clash against Edinburgh at the start of the year. After returning off the bench for his club in Ulster he started Friday’s win over Munster at Kilmarnock and is hoping to be on the plane to Rome later this week, where head coach Vern Cotter may value his versatility of also covering stand-off on the bench.
“You have to relax and take it on the chin, get on with it,” continued Horne. “You made a terrible mistake but what is the point in beating yourself up about it for weeks.
“Off the back of that I had some of my best form. It made me more determined to come back and be better and make sure I did learn from it.
“Luckily it meant the week after I had a game for Glasgow, two weeks later we played Leinster over there. A week is a long time, but you just have to suck it up and get on with it.”
That is something that Scotland have had to do a lot of in the Six Nations of late, with their horror run of consecutive losses in the competition now at nine. “It has been a while since we won and nobody is hurting more than the players,” insisted the 26-year-old Fifer. “We are all desperate to set the record straight and to get that win we are all desperate for, the whole country is.”
Italy have a reputation of sticking to their traditional strengths in the forwards but their outstanding player of the tournament so far has been Exeter centre Michele Campagnaro – a player fellow midfielder Horne knows well and rates highly.
“He is a cracking player, he has been brilliant for a couple of years, a real danger man,” said Horne. “He is at Exeter now but we used to play against him a couple of times a season with Treviso. He is an exciting player, he has a great outside break, he looks as though he is a lot stronger and more powerful now. He is a really good defender. He will certainly cause us a threat this weekend but we have some brilliant centres as well so I am sure it will be a good battle.”
Despite the high stakes of both teams striving to get off the mark in the tournament, Horne believes a more open game than is usual is a definite prospect.
“Definitely. I am not the best scrummager so I am quite looking forward to it [an open game] if I get a chance,” joked the centre. “It looks like they are trying to play a lot more rugby, they are throwing the ball around, which will certainly make for a better game.”