WHEN one door closes, another opens. The foot injury which brought a premature end to Ali Price’s World Cup involvement was a devastating blow for the player but offered Henry Pyrgos the opportunity to fly out to Japan to join Gregor Townsend’s squad.
It also meant that George Horne moved up the pecking order, although the player himself doesn’t quite see it that way.
While the outside world tended to regard the 24-year-old as behind Greig Laidlaw and Price in the squad initially selected by head Townsend – based on the fact that he has only seven caps and two starts, didn’t play at all during the Six Nations, and only managed 64 minutes of game time during the team’s World Cup warm-up schedule – Horne himself travelled to Japan believing that he had just as much chance as anyone of making the starting XV.
“I didn’t think I was third choice scrum-half,” he insisted. “Coming in to the tournament, I knew Greig had a lot of experience and Ali was playing great, but I just wanted to show up as well as I could in training and push them all the way for spots [in the match-day squad]. Like every member of this group, I just wanted to contribute well whether I was in the match-day squad or not part of the 23.
“Now that Ali has gone Henry is here, it will be another fight to get the jersey on match-day so nothing changes in how I look forward to training and games.
“I was gutted for Ali. He has had a great season and was great off the bench at the weekend with a broken foot! But there is nothing I can do about that. It is an opportunity to pick up where he left off and put in some good performances.
“It has been a really great experience so far as a player. The fact I am hopefully going to get a shot this week is hugely exciting. Every time you pull on a Scottish jersey it is a massive experience. I can’t wait to get out there.”
Recognition in the pro game did not come easily to Horne. Despite 12 appearances over two seasons for the Scotland Under-20s team, concerns about his size were a big factor in it taking the Fifer until he was just a few weeks shy of his 22nd birthday before he picked up his first full-time contract with Glasgow Warriors.
Before that he had spells playing for Currie Chieftains and Glasgow Hawks in the Scottish Premiership, and for London Scottish in the second-tier English Championship, whilst transitioning from stand-off to scrum-half.
He will now get his big chance to show what he can do on the global stage in Scotland’s must-win match against Samoa in Kobe on Monday, and despite his lack of recent game time he believes he is ready to grab the opportunity with both hands.
Certainly, with Townsend identifying him as perhaps the fittest player in the squad earlier in the summer, that side of things should not be a problem.
“We’ve not been doing too much fitness since we’ve been over here, it’s been a lot of focus on rugby, but fitness is something I try and pride myself on,” said Horne. “I think it’s really important for the nines, and the whole team because we want to play high-tempo, so we all have to be fit.
“I’ve not started a lot of games recently, but we’ve trained hard all summer and if the call was to come to start, I’d absolutely relish it.
“The way I train and play, I try and bring energy through what I do,” he added. “As one of the younger guys, I’m maybe not the most vocal but I definitely want to bring energy through my play. Hopefully I can do that on Monday.”
The Scotland team will be announced tomorrow [Saturday] morning at around 6.30am BST.