Pete Horne shies away from any comparisons with Owen Farrell even if he shares the same kind of role for Scotland against the English in tomorrow’s Calcutta Cup game at Murrayfield.
Like Farrell does for England, Horne operates as a second stand-off much of the time, a “minder” on the outside for Finn Russell, but most of all a communicator and second pair of eyes for his stand-off.
But while Farrell reels in the plaudits and man of the match awards, Horne is quite content with the properly selfless nature of his role.
“I guess my role in the team is almost to try and make everyone else look good,” said the Cupar man, who will make his first appearance in the historic fixture tomorrow.
“I’m quite happy to do that – just work hard and hopefully create a bit more space for everyone else around me. And maybe by doing that, it will hopefully create a little bit more space for me to then start attacking myself.”
The partnership with Russell, honed over a few seasons at Glasgow, is a key one, he agrees.
“We’re not at the same stage as Farrell and George Ford,” he said. “I like to think that I help Finn out, take a bit of the pressure off him.
“A big role in my game is trying to organise everyone outside of Finn, give him lots of chat so that he can take care of the first phase, and then when he’s coming round the corner I’ll hopefully have everything organised for him.
“I think we’ve got a really good relationship, we work well together. He’s put me through plenty of holes, and like I said I like to think I take a little bit of the pressure off him.”
While a quiet man in public, on the pitch and on the training field Horne is a prime organiser and communicator, and he believes the more chat the better it is for the team.
“Every time there’s a stoppage we’re over chatting,” he said. “It’s the same with Greig (Laidlaw) or Ali (price) if they’re on, we try and get together as much as we can. I think that’s a vital part of the game, making sure that we’re all on the same wavelength, we’ve all got ideas but making sure we collate them and run with it.
“When you’re at 10 you’ve got so much to worry about. You’ve got a backfield, you’ve got guys coming up to smash you, you’ve got forwards working off 9, so it’s rare that you’ve got time to look around and see what’s happening outside you.
“So you can’t underestimate the value of having somebody out there just organising and calling new things. You just come round the corner, give them the thumbs up and then we can play off it.”
And Horne is happy to shift the ball on to the flying feet of Huw Jones and work off him as well.
“Huw’s on fire again, which is great. I basically just chuck the ball to him and let him run about, same with Hoggy. You’ve got such fantastic players out there, I’m just trying to put them in space and get after the ball, then pick up the support lines.”
Breaking down England’s defence will be tough, however, and stopping them scoring – which Scotland manifestly failed to do at Twickenham last year – is not easy either.
“I missed out last year and I felt for the boys,” he said. “You know what it’s like when you’re really passionate about it, you’re desperate to be out there in the thick of things with them.
“I think everyone’s desperate to turn that around. We’ve not spoken too much about it, it’s just we don’t want to get mugged off again, especially on our own patch.
“We’re excited. We know it’s going to be a massive challenge. They’ll be coming up here with their backs up. They’ll be expecting to win and quite rightly, they’re one of the best teams in the world.”
Horne has spent plenty time poring over video footage of England and is hugely impressed with the way they operate,
“The way they mix their game up, they are very well drilled, they are difficult to break down (defensively),” he said.
“There are times when it looks like there is a lot of space but trying to get the ball there is very, very difficult. They do come up hard, they defend really well, they have a good system.
“They also have individuals who can break the game up, for example Anthony Watson’s tries a couple of weeks ago against Italy, when he gets the ball, he has no right to finish but that is the sort of thing these guys can do.
“If anything that should inspire our boys to bring out their best performance of the season and we know that we have to be on point at all time against them or else they are very clinical.”