CHRIS HARRIS has come a long way since his Scotland starting debut.

The centre first pulled on a Scotland shirt in 2017 but it was it was almost exactly two years ago, at the 2018 Six Nations when he made his first start for Scotland.

And it’s fair to say it was something of an inauspicious beginning to his international career.

Up against Wales in Cardiff, Scotland lost 34-7 and it was a defeat Harris played no small part in.

Playing for Newcastle Falcons at the time, a knock-on by Harris just as Scotland looked to be working their way back into the game after a disastrous start was disappointing and all too often, he left himself exposed in defence ensuring it was a day to forget for the centre.

Harris lasted only 54 minutes in Cardiff that day and was then cast aside for the rest of the tournament by head coach Gregor Townsend in what was a debut many would struggle to recover from.

But two years on, the 29-year-old is now at Gloucester Rugby, playing in the English Premiership and has made himself a regular in Townsend’s squad, playing in all four of Scotland’s World Cup games last year, as well as every Six Nations match so far this tournament, starting against both Italy and France.

The Scots travel to Cardiff on Saturday to face Wales in their final match of this year’s tournament and while Harris has not forgotten about that fateful debut, he has put the memories far behind him.

“It was a game that didn't go well for the team but I'm not really thinking about it,” he said of that defeat in 2018.

“We're just going to go down and play the game that is ahead of us as opposed to thinking about what is in the past.

“For myself, I think I've come on leaps and bounds since that first start. I'm just looking forward to the weekend. I've been involved in all the games so far and I just want to keep playing and enjoying myself. I'm loving every minute of it.”

Harris may believe he has improved significantly in the past couple of years, and there are few who would disagree, with his transfer to Gloucester last year following Newcastle’s demotion moving his game onto the next level. Such has been the importance to his game of that move last summer, Harris doubts he would currently be an international player if he had not taken the leap.

“I don’t think you can get comfortable and I think at Newcastle, I was comfortable, and so I probably would have just ended up plateauing,” he said.

“Going somewhere else freshens you up and give you a little spark. I think if I had stayed at Newcastle, playing in the championship, I wouldn’t have been here now, so I think it was a good move for my career.”

Harris may be an established internationalist these days, but there are things he knows he can improve upon, with the mental side of the game just as important as the technical, tactical and physical side of things.

“It’s not hidden that the mental side of the game is a massive thing,” he said.

“It is not a surprise that it plays a big factor – it is just something you have to put to one side, almost, and focus on the game. You have to play the game, not the occasion.

“I’ve never doubted myself. It is just a big stage, international, it is another step up. It was the same when I was playing club rugby and I moved to Tyndedale, it was another step up. You’ve got to be pretty mentally strong to play at any level.

“There’s nerves, there is the fear that you are going to make a mistake – but you just can’t feel that. You’ve just got to have confidence in yourself that you are going to go out and perform.”

The Scots travel to Cardiff hoping to record their first run of three consecutive wins ever in the Six Nations and the first time in this championship since 1996. Having comfortably defeated France last weekend, Scotland’s confidence is sky-high but with Wales having only won one match this tournament, Wayne Pivac’s men will not be short of motivation to get a result on Saturday.

However, despite the Principality Stadium being an intimidating place to play, Harris is optimistic Scotland’s defence, which has been mightily impressive so far this tournament, can withstand anything that will be thrown at them.

“I think our defence is the best in the championship at the moment. That just proves where we've come. We still had some good defensive performances in the World Cup with those two games in the middle. We are improving and the exciting thing is that there is so much more to give as we continue to get better,” he said.

“Wales are three points behind us, but it is big for us too. If we win then we are likely to finish third which would be a good outcome for us. If we lose we could end up finishing fifth. There is a lot at stake for us, but a lot of pressure on them to put in a performance.”