Rugby World Cup 2019: Scotland's George Horne out to impress Gregor Townsend

George Horne scores for Scotland
George Horne scored his third Scotland try on his seventh cap against Georgia this month

George Horne's capacity to cut holes in defences is clear, but it's only when you put his statistics in context that you get an angle on how ruthless the scrum-half can be.

Horne might be Scotland's third-choice scrum-half in Japan, but in other categories he's out on his own.

The younger Horne has scored 22 tries in 42 games for Glasgow, which means he's scored in 52% of the matches he has played in for the Warriors - plenty of them off the bench.

It's a figure that looks impressive at first glance, but it only gets better when you place it alongside the best finishers the club has had in recent times.

Horne is ahead of all others. DTH van der Merwe is the nearest with a try in 48% of his Glasgow games, Tommy Seymour and Niko Matawalu are on 34%, while Stuart Hogg finished his time on 25%.

The scrum-half might only be the size of the leg of a chair (he is 5ft 9ins and 79kg) but he has the kind of stamina and gas that could prove influential in the stifling humidity of the World Cup.

"I try to get the team playing at a high tempo and, to be honest, a lot of those tries don't come from me doing anything special," he says.

"It's the guys making breaks and me just getting on the end of them. I think that ability to track the ball and just get on the inside has counted for 75%-80% of those tries.

"A lot of the credit goes to the guys making the breaks. But, yeah, if there's a gap there I will try and take it."

A debut that left him 'distraught'

His eye for space and his pace off the mark might not be enough to get him ahead of the game management and big-game nous offered by Greig Laidlaw or the frenetic excellence of Ali Price, but Horne is the coming man, no question.

At 24, he has seven international caps and three international tries - two against Argentina last summer and one against Georgia earlier this month.

Again the strike rate is impressive; not quite as prolific as Darcy Graham, Sam Johnson or Blair Kinghorn, but better than everybody else in terms of tries to caps won.

Different players bring different things but his three in seven compares favourably to Laidlaw's four in 73 and Price's four in 27.

This road to Japan began in earnest on the summer tour in 2018, a test of resolve if ever there was one. His debut came against the United States in Houston - and it was a nightmare as Scotland lost.

"The game itself was weird," Horne says. "We got off to a great start then our own mistakes just started killing us.

"I was just distraught. I got my cap presented to me but I was just raging. I was fizzing. I couldn't comprehend what had happened.

"It was always my dream to play for Scotland and to follow in the footsteps of my brother [Peter, who has 43 caps], but it was a pretty bleak couple of days."

'Pete has been a massive influence'

Peter and George Horne
Glasgow's Peter and George Horne became the 49th set of brothers to represent Scotland

The following week Scotland went to Resistencia in Argentina. Las Vegas, it was not. Scotland were cooped up in a hotel in the sticks. Horror of horrors, the WiFi was patchy.

There was a heavy air about the place that week and for a young guy who had just suffered through his debut it was a challenge.

Gregor Townsend put Horne, and Adam Hastings, straight back into the team for the Test with the Pumas. Within a minute the pair got hold of the match and dominated it.

Horne's talent was not in question but you never find out about a player's mentality until it's tested in weeks like that - and Horne stood up.

"That Argentina game was the best feeling I've ever had in rugby," he says. "I'm hoping to have some better ones in Japan, but that will take a bit of beating.

"Pete has been a massive influence on me. If you ask anyone they'll tell you he's the ultimate professional, so having him to learn from has definitely helped me get to where I am.

"He's had upsets in in his career and he's come through them. He's had injuries, he's had disappointments in games. He's shrugged it all off and bounced back.

"Everything I might go through in the game he's already been through, so it's brilliant to be in the squad with him."

'I don't sulk. I try to make a difference'

The scrum-half has had to battle. Once upon a time he was a 10, but not a highly regarded 10 by those in power.

"The coaches didn't really see me as a stand-off," he recalls. "I think there was this perception that I tried to play for myself, and they just didn't think 10 was for me. I didn't manage the game as well as others."

He always wanted to be a professional player but around the time that his brother was playing - and scoring - for Scotland against Australia in the World Cup quarter-final four years ago, Horne was in an uncertain place, unwanted by the national academy and unsure about where his future lay in the game.

Talent wouldn't have been enough to get him through the traffic at nine - he's had to play his way past Henry Pyrgos and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne. He's needed perseverance, too. Plenty of it.

"I want to start more games. Every player will tell you that," he says.

"I know how it is, though. Greig runs the game exceptionally well and that's something I need to work on. Ali's basic skills of passing and kicking are unbelievable so I need to match the boys in those areas.

"I have a lot to learn but I think I can make an impact. I don't sulk. I come on the field and try to make a difference."

And he does. His scoring rate is extraordinary and it's that cutting edge that gives him a chance of upsetting the natural order in Japan.

Top Stories