GREGOR TOWNSEND has hailed Harry Paterson’s performance against France in this [Saturday] afternoon’s Six Nations round two clash at Murrayfield as “one of the best debuts I’ve ever seen”.
The 22-year-old full-back was called into the starting XV five hours before kick-off after Kyle Steyn‘s wife went into labour, and looked to the manor born, despite it being only his eighth pro start (his ninth ever pro appearance).
“To see him play like that gives us a lot of belief and confidence in him,” said Townsend. “He grew into the game as well. He knew he’d have a lot of kicks to field due to the way France play and with the weather being wet, but he just got stronger and stronger as the game went on.
“It’s one of the best debuts I’ve ever seen. We were playing a top three, top four team in the world. Going up against that French backline, on a wet day at Murrayfield, he was excellent.
“I gave him a heads-up that he could be playing about 9 o’clock this morning, then confirmed it with him at 10am. To play like that was fantastic and gives us a lot of encouragement about where Harry can go over these next few years.”
Paterson’s game-time in adult rugby has been limited by injury and a scarcity of opportunities at Edinburgh, where he has been up against, among others, Darcy Graham, Duhan van der Merwe, Emiliano Boffelli and the now departed Blair Kinghorn in the capital back-three, so it was widely assumed that he was involved for the experience when initially named in Scotland’s Six Nations training squad last month.
“He’s really impressed us with how he’s played in the away games for Edinburgh this year. Especially the win over Ulster in Belfast, and Clermont as well, he really stood up,” said Townsend. “That says a lot about a player if they can stand up in those tough environments. He’s now shown he can do it at Test level.
“But Kyle Rowe deserves a mention as well. That was only his second Test start for Scotland and, like Harry, I thought he was excellent. We are building depth in the back three.
“Harry probably came into the squad thinking he’s behind Blair, behind the guys on the wing, but opportunities come sometimes when you don’t expect them. That can be due to injuries [Graham and Kinghorn are currently sidelined] or, in this case, someone’s wife expecting a baby.”
Townsend confirmed that he had considered moving Huw Jones to full-back and starting Cam Redpath in the centre, but was keen to keep continuity in midfield.
“Huw and Sione had trained with Finn all week, plus Huw hasn’t played much at full-back at club level, let alone Test level,” he explained.
“Harry has been playing 15 for our non-23 and training really well, so it became an easy decision.
“‘Both Harry and Kyle exceeded expectations. I also thought Andy Christie was really good as well when he came on.”
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