IF there is extra pressure on Pete Horne’s shoulders as Saturday’s second World Cup warm-up meeting against France approaches, at least the Glasgow Warriors man is used to it. As he revealed this week, the 29-year-old centre/fly half feels he has had to battle for every single scrap of limelight which has ever come his way.

While our first encounter with the French in Nice on Saturday might have been a good match to miss – centres Duncan Taylor and Huw Jones were rarely able to get to the ball on the front foot – Horne has earned a start at inside centre at BT Murrayfield alongside Chris Harris in what has become a congested battle to become one of Scotland’s midfield options at the Rugby World Cup.

With six centres in all remaining, it isn’t just Taylor and Jones whom Horne has to get the nod over, mind you. Sam Johnson, a stand-out in the Six Nations, is expected to return from injury in time for the showpiece while one of the 29-year-old’s main selling points, his versatility, is replicated by that of young Rory Hutchinson of Northampton Saints.

Finn Russell, you would assume, has the starting duties at fly half sewn up with Adam Hastings a plausible potential replacement.


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No better time than Saturday night to put in a display which makes him indispensable to Scotland’s World Cup hopes. While it would be wrong to say Horne is fatalistic about his chances of making that plane, he has learned to play with that chip on his shoulder.

“I’ve been a position in my career where I’ve never had the luxury of being able to go into a game expecting another chance,” said Horne, a man with 48 points from his 41 international caps. “I’ve always been playing for the jersey next week. That’s the way it is and this is no different.

“Everyone, my whole career, I’ve been second choice. It doesn’t bother me.

“I always work hard and from the outside everyone talks about everyone else, it doesn’t matter what I do.

“So I tend to just not care and get on with my job. Keep working hard, keep my head down and don’t pay too much attention.

“Do I feel like a second choice? Not in my head. I just mean from the outside looking in.

“I remember the year at Glasgow where we won the league, I think I played 32 games that year, and the whole year it seemed it was about how the first-choice centres were Alex Dunbar and Mark Bennett.

“Fair enough, at the end of that year they were both injured but I played ahead of them that whole season. It’s been like that…forever.

“But it’s not about me. Hutch has had a great year, he’s come in and trained really well.


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“There is a lot of competition. Last Rugby World Cup there were a couple of injuries which narrowed it down a little bit. Last few years there’s been loads of competition.

“You don’t have the luxury now that if you play s**** you’ll still be in the week after. If you don’t play well then you’re not going to play. That pressure, you just have to try and thrive on it, if you start thinking about the World Cup, you’re lost.

“I know what I bring. I’m not the flashiest of players but I know I’m ready to compete and I do a job in this team that makes us a better team. I’m not thinking too hard about anything, I’ll just go out this weekend and work my balls off.”

Having conceded five tries and shipped 32 points, a good starting point for the centres on Saturday night – you would imagine – would be keeping the backdoor shut. With only full back Stuart Hogg remaining from the first match against the French – he wasn’t blameless in defence either – there have been a few home truths from the coaching staff even to those who weren’t involved in Nice.

“Oh God, the coaches get fired up,” says Horne. “And the players. If you do something wrong at training, you get pulled in and get a rocket.

“It might be from one of the boys or it might be from one of the coaches. Gregor is not shy. To him, a speed is a spade and we'll get told.

“It is frustrating, it's upsetting,” he added. “If you had told us at the start of the game what the outcome would be we would have said that would never happen. The coaches will be hacked off and will expect a reaction. It's up to the 23 selected this weekend to go out and make sure they put a shift in that represents what we are about.”


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If the bran of the French side seemed to take Scotland aback on Saturday, Horne feels that no fingers can be pointed about preparation. While they didn’t come to anything on the night, it is worth noting that the Scots created plenty of line breaks in that opening period, even if they couldn’t capitalise.

“I think we've prepared well,” said Horne. “We are fit, we really are, and I don't think I've ever done so much running.

“Our fitness scores are all world-class. I wasn't there at the weekend so I can't comment on what happened. It looked hot and muggy, but when we were in Portugal we coped well with that. We have done a lot of heat training.

“I know from experience in the past that you always feel great at the end of pre-season and quite often you go into your first match and you're like, s***, your legs feel full and it is tough. Those guys who got a good bit of game time in the tank will certainly be better for it.”