WE’VE been here before, of course. Ahead of last year’s Six Nations, as Greig Laidlaw worked his way back to full match sharpness following a broken leg, there was a public clamour for Ali Price to be given an extended run in the Scotland No 9 jersey, with the then 24-year-old seen as the man to facilitate the high-tempo, caution-to-the-wind style which is apparently the only way the team can hope to succeed on the world stage.
The younger man was given the nod for the Championship opener against Wales, with Laidlaw on the bench, and it is safe to say that it didn’t go well. Price threw a calamitous interception pass to concede an early try and the team as a whole struggled to establish any sort of control in a match which quickly ran away from them. It was a stark reminder that Laidlaw might have limitations, but still offers an awful lot in terms of leadership, intelligence and the ability to deal with pressure.
This time, Laidlaw is fully fit, and the Championship has already passed the halfway stage, but the general sentiment is the same. The energy Price injected during the final quarter of Scotland’s defeat to France provided a compelling argument for him to be given another chance in the starting XV, and it just so happens to be Wales who are next up for the boys in blue.
But is he better equipped now for that role than he was just over 12 months ago, if head coach Gregor Townsend decides to roll the dice when he names his team on Thursday?
“Absolutely,” Price replies. “It took me a while [to get over last Six Nations]. I ended up falling out of favour back at club level, but I said I’d be better for it and I definitely am. I’m back enjoying myself and my last few games have been going alright, I’d like to think.
“That game needed to happen for me, I’d been on a pretty steep trajectory and I got brought down to earth with a bump. I’m in a much better place because of that.”
Whether he does take Laidlaw’s place, or is once again on the bench, Price will look to bring his trademark enthusiasm and vitality to the cause.
“The main thing that came out of the French performance was our (lack of) energy throughout the whole game, our kick-chase wasn’t good enough,” says the scrum-half. “We had a few good kicks within the game, kicks that went in-field, and it was just that energy on kick-chase that gave them easy outs.
“Going into next week it’s about building intensity and energy within training so we’re good to go again against Wales.
“Obviously we’re disappointed but you’ve got to park it,” he added. “There’s no point on dwelling on what happened, you can’t change that game, you can’t change the result. We’ve still got two massive games left and we can have a good crack at finishing high up in the table at the end of the tournament. There would be nothing better than getting back to winning ways.
“It’ll be a massive one at home against a team going for a Grand Slam. If that’s not motivation for you, I don’t know what is.”