George Horne, maybe the most impactful player in the Scottish domestic game this season, is finally in a Scotland squad, and it’s safe to say it won’t be the last time.
The 22-year-old younger brother of Scotland centre Peter and the younger son of former Howe of Fife head coach Garry has had an astonishing first full season for Glasgow Warriors, scoring 10 tries in just 14 games and becoming a huge fan favourite at Scotstoun, winning player of the month honours twice already.
At the outset of the 6 Nations Gregor Townsend acknowledged the young scrum-half’s form, but thought it better he stay with Glasgow than be in the national squad on a simple watching brief.
However as Townsend added 10 names to his squad ahead of the game against Ireland in Dublin, including established returnees from injury such as Richie Gray, Alex Dunbar, Fraser Brown and George’s old Strathallan School colleague Zander Fagerson, he also decided it was time to include the younger Horne, who has continued to tear up the PRO14.
Mike Blair, skills coach and a mentor to all the scrum-halves at Glasgow and in the Scotland squad, reckoned there was no question George deserved the call.
“The first moment that I saw something with George was when he was away with the Sevens team (last year),” said Scotland’s most-capped No 9. “I saw how he was able to impose his running game, his support game and his fitness into that area.
“That gives you a lot of enthusiasm (about a player), seeing that. At Glasgow he’s been able to work really hard on the basics of his game, his kicking and passing. Ten tries in 14 games is phenomenal, he’s been brilliant in this campaign.”
Raw talent is something Goerge had plenty of, continued Blair, but it was his willingness to work to improve that also impressed.
“Greig Laidlaw always wants to do more work, hone his game – and George almost takes that to another level,” he continued.
“At the end of every training session, he says: “Mike, can we do ten minutes on my passing, my kicking?”
“He also leads the way in support play so, if you’re looking for an example of best practice in scrum-half play, he’s one of the best I’ve seen.”
Horne is unlikely to force his way past Laidlaw or Price to get into the matchday 23 for Dublin, but it could only be a matter of time.
“He has incredible energy and that lifts the players around him,” added Blair. “There are still parts of his game that we will be looking to work on but in terms of raw talent and the will to win and succeed and compete he is excellent.
“Having a larger squad enables you to look at players in this environment. He will have the opportunity to train with us and we will see how he goes and reflect afterwards.”