Six Nations: Harry Paterson reflects on his dramatic debut and that ‘gutting’ conclusion

“I was halfway through my breakfast when Gregor called me. I managed to force a couple of bananas down me, but that’s it."

Harry Paterson
Harry Paterson tries to go round France full-back Thomas Ramos during Saturday's game at Murrayfield. Image: © Craig Watson.

PERHAPS inevitably, Harry Paterson experienced a very mixed assembly of emotions on Saturday evening. Justifiably proud of a debut that Gregor Townsend called “one of the best I’ve ever seen”, the Scotland full-back was also deflated by the controversial ending in which referee Nic Berry refused the home team a try which would have turned a 20-16 defeat by France into a narrow victory.

But in addition to the pride and the dejection, the inevitable highs and lows of such a dramatic day, there was also a large measure of rationality in the 22-year-old’s reaction to what had just happened on the pitch – both in his own performance and in the match overall. For example, he insisted that Scotland should not have allowed the Six Nations match to be decided on that final play, and said that there were aspects of his game which were deserving of criticism.

And – despite appearing just about as unflappable as any rookie can be in the circumstances – he proclaimed himself to be “a fairly stressful bloke”, one for whom news of his inclusion in the team interfered rather drastically with what he had expected to be a low-key day as one of the non-employed members of the squad.

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That news came in the early morning, once Townsend learned that Kyle Steyn’s wife had gone into labour. The head coach could have reshuffled his starting line-up from his existing matchday 23, perhaps by moving Huw Jones to full-back, promoting Cameron Redpath from the bench to centre then shifting Kyle Rowe from 15 to 14. 

He switched Rowe, sure enough, but then opted to promote Paterson straight into the 15. 

“This morning I presumed I’d be 24th man and travelling reserve, but things changed pretty quickly,” Paterson revealed after the game. “This morning I found out, which is actually better as you’ve got less time to stress through the week. I got a full night’s sleep as well.

“I was halfway through my breakfast when Gregor called me. I didn’t really eat much after that.

“I was eating some poached eggs on toast with some baked beans. I had to say goodbye to that. I managed to force a couple of bananas down me, but that’s it.

“There was about five minutes of panic, but I stabilised after that. It’s always been a dream of mine to play for Scotland, but not this quickly and not this way. I didn’t think it would happen so soon.”

Once the change had been made, team manager David Edge set about getting tickets for Paterson’s grandparents and some friends. The full-back’s parents were already planning to attend the game, and his father, Steve, was the first person he contacted to break the news that he was in the team.

“Calling him was a bad idea, actually, as I got a bit emotional,” Paterson continued. “I should have just texted him. 

“He said: ‘Right, this is what we need to do’, trying to keep me calm and keep it short. He knew I had other things on my mind. It was a nice moment.

“He played at Heriot’s for a long time. He tells me he scored 44 tries in one season, but I’m not sure I believe him. He was a winger and a centre – I don’t think he was very skilful, but he was quite hard, I think.”



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Paterson is both very skilful and quite hard, punching well above his weight in defence. He has still only played eight games for Edinburgh, so is a novice at professional level, never mind the international game. But in that handful of games he has done enough to impress Townsend into including him in the squad. 

“Obviously there’s been a bit of luck with people dropping out and a couple of injuries,” he continued, referring to the absence of Blair Kinghorn and Darcy Graham  who should both be available to face England a week on Saturday – and Ollie Smith. “But having seen me in the couple of games I’ve played for Edinburgh this season, he’s liked the fact I have a bit of an edge about me.

“I’m not the fastest in the world, I’m not the most naturally gifted, so I need to make up for that with a lot of hard work.


“There were a couple of things we need to look at,” Paterson added when asked to assess his individual performance against the French. “There was the try where they kicked it through over my head and some high-ball stuff as well. 

“I’m a fairly stressful bloke usually, but when it comes to games, I do seem to be able to calm down a wee bit. Especially with the nature of the position  it might be different for a back-row, but I need to be a bit more composed and calmer, rather than aggressive. There are times for that, but a bit less of a hothead I suppose.

“Generally I was pretty pleased with how I played, but there’s stuff still to look at.

“It was just really gutting at the end. We all thought we saw what everyone else saw on the TV  I thought I read the ref’s lips on the screen, with him saying: ‘I’m going to award the try’.

“But Gregor said to us afterwards that we need to take games out of the referee’s hands and not leave it up to a decision like that. That’s what we need to look at  being more clinical and when in that area finishing with a try instead of taking a three.

“There was a lot of disappointment in the dressing room but Gregor said he was really proud of us that we came back at the end and were in a position to win it.

“It was obviously bittersweet in a lot of ways today, but all the boys are saying to just make sure I take it all in and enjoy it. Jamie Ritchie said to me before: ‘When you get to Murrayfield, take your headphones off [while] walking out of the bus [and through] the crowd’. It was awesome. I’m glad he said that as I probably wouldn’t have, so that was a nice moment.

“It was an awesome day, but just really confusing in the end.”


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Six Nations: round two takeaways

About Stuart Bathgate 1363 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.


  1. HP had a great debut no denying that, but BK is the form player and playing very well for Toulouse, plus he’s had a few weeks rest. Ditto the wee man Darcy; both should be first names on the sheet next week.

  2. What a lovely story! Marvellous debut. Does he deserve to be dropped if Blair is fit?
    Suddenly lots of back three depth with Steyn,Graham and Kinghorn all potentially available for England.No idea who gets the nod at FB and right wing now!

    • Sadly, I suspect Townsend with immediately throw Graham and Kinghorn back into the starting 15 which is gonna be brutal on Steyn, Rowe or Paterson. In that situation I suspect Rowe might be the bench option, seeing as he’s played two games so far whereas the other two have only played one. Healy hasn’t been used, and Rowe was Kinghorn’s backup so makes sense to let him cover back-three while keeping Redpath to cover centre. Who knows what Gregor will do, I’d love to be wrong and see Rowe and Paterson still fully involved. Good to have some solid depth!

      • I’d stick Kinghorn back in, Paterson was very good for his debut but Kinghorn has been tearing it up for Toulouse and offer so much more at this point in attack and distribution. He has only had a few weeks out also, I doubt he will be that rusty.

        I would not select Graham at least until Italy, Rowe has been very good and is like for like. I’d have Steyn on bench as still looks like he is somewhat managing his injury.

  3. Yeah he was magnificent. French targeted him with high balls early in and then stopped once they saw how dangerous he was. Great to have the back 3 options that we do now. Hopefully gets lots more game time for Edinburgh now too.

  4. Well done Harry, a fantastic international debut.
    Now! Be humble, keep learning, be patient and more caps will follow.
    Time is on your side, good luck 👍🙂🏉


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