George Horne’s rise from mere fringe potential to first choice scrum-half for Glasgow has been no real surprise for Dave Rennie.
The 22-year-old from Cupar will start alongside Finn Russell in tomorrow’s third leg of the 1872 Cup against Edinburgh at Murrayfield keeping two established Scotland internationalists, Henry Pyrgos and Ali Price out of the starting shirt.
And the reason is simple, according to Rennie – he’s been the best player in the shirt this season.
“He has been our best performing nine,” said the head coach, who stopped short of calling his named team his first XV but said they were “as good a side as we can select today”.
“George has had a great season, his speed around the track, his ability to get to the ball quickly, his ability to get second touches in a move have all been there.
“We released him to go to the Commonwealth Games which was a great opportunity for him, but this is about his form throughout the year. He’s been fantastic for us and deserves his opportunity to play in such a big game.”
Horne started the year by some way third in the pecking order behind his international team-mates, but Rennie has watched his progress closely.
“He’s a rare breed, incredibly quick but he can go for 80 minutes because he’s also phenomenally fit,” continued the coach.
“He really suits the kind of game we want to play and it means that Edinburgh are going to have to be aware of him which might create space for someone else.
“It’s a credit to George, he has worked really hard on his game.
“On the technical side of things, Mike Blair has done a lot of work with him. He’s a good kid, keen to learn and prepared to work hard.
“Should he tour with Scotland this summer? That’s a question for Gregor (Townsend). But it shows what we think of him that we’ve picked him ahead of two pretty experienced guys.”
Rennie restores Ryan Wilson and Jonny Gray to his pack from injury and pointed to the fact that eight of his starting team didn’t play in either of the first two legs of the 1872 Cup back in December.
He also believes his side haven’t tailed off in their season despite recent results, or that they have an issue with big games away from Scotstoun.
“We’ve qualified for the play-offs with about seven games to go, so we’ve clearly won some games away from home,” he said.
“You don’t get yourself in this sort of spot without getting a few things right earlier in the year.
“The key is that we have to be at our best at semi-final and final time, that’s all that counts in the end. We have a three-week block leading into that.
“I’m happy with where we are. We have a good bunch of men and we have depth and quality to pick from. We just need to be sharper and more clinical.”
Glasgow team: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Nick Grigg, Sam Johnson, DTH Van der Merwe; Finn Russell, George Horne; Alex Allan, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson; Jonny Gray, Tim Swinson; Matt Fagerson, Callum Gibbins, Ryan Wilson (captain). Replacements: Jamie Bhatti, George Turrner, Sio Halanukonuka, Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro, Henry Pyrgos, Pete Horne, Lee Jones.