Horne hoping to study Laidlaw’s game to earn regular Test spot for Scotland
George Horne was still at university the last time Scotland faced Samoa at the World Cup – but he now hopes to graduate to a regular Test slot by studying Greig Laidlaw’s game.
The Glasgow Warrior was hitting the books on a physical education degree at the University of Edinburgh when his brother Pete was smashing into Pacific Islanders four years ago.
That narrow 36-33 win at Newcastle’s St James Park helped the Dark Blues keep their bid for a quarter-final slot on course.
Now it will be the younger Horne sibling who could have a vital role to play when the Scots take on the Samoans once more in Japan in a clash that could again help decide whether they reach the last eight.
With Ali Price ruled out of the tournament with a foot injury sustained against Ireland in their opening Pool A defeat last Sunday, Horne junior is now second in line behind Laidlaw for the number nine jersey.
And he has told Gregor Townsend he is ready to cover for the former skipper as and when required.
“Absolutely,” declared the 24-year-old, who has seven caps to his name so far.
“I’ve not started a lot of games recently but we’ve trained hard and if the call was to come to start, I’d absolutely relish it.
“In 2015 I was at uni so it was a different atmosphere back then. I was watching on from a flat in Edinburgh when Pete scored against Australia (in the quarter-final) and my phone went mental, it was like I had scored with all the texts coming through.
“It was pretty cool watching then but even better now I’m out here.
“For the Samoa game I was actually at it at St James’ Park – me and dad were in the crowd. It was a pretty nerve-racking day but good to win it and get through to the quarters.
“I’ve not played against an awful lot of Samoans. Rey Lee-Lo is at Cardiff and there’s a few around the PRO14 so you know what they’re going to bring, it’s physicality.
“It’s going to be a massive test and I can’t wait for it.”
Horne’s lively displays for Glasgow and his knack of making himself as a regular scorer have marked him out as the young pretender for Laidlaw’s scrum-half slot.
The 33-year-old admits this will be his final World Cup and – while he has him there to pick his brains – Horne intends to make the most of his words of wisdom.
He said: “Greig’s been a big influence. He’s played 74 times for Scotland, he’s a leader of the boys, so tapping into that experience has been great.
“His strengths, his kicking game, managing the game, are things I can work on and being able to pick his brain in those areas has been great. He’s someone you’re always in contact with and you can learn from.
“Is this my chance with Greig getting on? That’s not how I think about it. I just think of trying to play as well as I can and if game times comes, then that’s great.
“I don’t think: ‘Oh, if Greig is going then hopefully I can be number one’. You think about playing well and trying to win for Scotland. The main goal is to win the next here games and get out of this group.
“I was gutted for Ali. He has had a great season and was great off the bench at the weekend with a flipping broken foot.
“It is gutting for him but there is nothing I can do about that. It is an opportunity to pick it up and put in some good performances.
“I didn’t think I was third choice scrum-half (coming into the tournament). Greig has a lot of experience and Ali was playing great.
“I just wanted to show up as well as I could in training and push them all the way for the spots and contribute well whether I am in the squad or the not.
“Now that Ali has gone, Henry (Pyrgos) is here and it will be a fight to get the jersey on match day so nothing changes in how I look forward to training and games.
“I definitely think I can bring energy to the team. That’s one of the main things in my game.
“I don’t think there was a lack of energy last week against Ireland, things didn’t go our way but everyone was knocking their pan in.
“But I definitely want to get on the pitch and bring as much energy as I can.”