Rory Darge backed to dovetail with Hamish Watson for Scotland against Italy

Rory Darge has taken most things in his stride on his journey to international rugby and his club coach has backed him to dovetail with Hamish Watson should both openside flankers be selected to play for Scotland against Italy on Saturday week.

Danny Wilson was blown away by Darge’s performance on his first Test start in the defeat by France at BT Murrayfield last weekend. Scotland may have lost 36-17 but the flanker’s display against arguably the best side in the world suggested he has a big future at this level.

Wilson, the Glasgow Warriors head coach, has watched Darge’s development since the player made the switch from Edinburgh just under a year ago.

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The player moved from the capital partly because Watson was blocking his path to the first team, but now the pair could line up together for the national side in the Six Nations in Rome.

Watson missed the France game after returning a positive Covid test on the eve of the match but should be fit for Italy. Gregor Townsend had originally selected Darge at six and Watson at seven to face the French but moved the former to seven and brought in Nick Haining at six when Watson was ruled out.

Wilson thinks the combination of Darge and Watson can be a potent force for Scotland despite their similarities.

“Rory’s not a six but then nor his Hamish, they’re both sevens, so you go into the game playing with the mindset that you’ve got two sevens, with one of them wearing No 6 on their back,” said the Glasgow coach.

“There will be certain roles that one of them will have to fulfil as a six - there are differences at the set-piece. But in general play you’ll have two huge presences at the breakdown and two guys who have got great footwork and the ability to carry.

Rory Darge made a highly impressive first start for Scotland against France. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

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“So I don’t think you’ll lose a huge amount and it’s just around the set-piece that having two sevens can be a little bit more niggly in terms of getting roles right but it will be very exciting to see both of them in the back row.”

Such has been his impact, it’s easy to forget that Darge has played just 15 competitive games for Glasgow. And while hugely impressed by his performance against France, Wilson has cautioned against expecting too much from the 22-year-old.

“I think we all knew what Rory was capable of doing at this level, then he stepped up in our European games and played extremely well and now to play against a very, very strong side like France and be the presence he was at the breakdown, and the energy he played with, I thought he was outstanding, and one for the future,” said Wilson.

Hamish Watson is expected to return for the Italy game. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

“He’s a very calm, collected type of character, not highly emotional but very motivated. He trains extremely well, he comes in with a really good mindset.

“At the same time, we’ve got to be careful that we don’t build too much pressure on the lad too early. He’s had a really good full debut but it will take time for him to be able to do that week in, week out in very high pressure situations but for a first start I thought he was outstanding.”

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