PETER HORNE says that fun and a sense of freedom within the team to follow their natural attacking instincts were the key components to Scotland’s success during this Autumn Test window.
“We’re having a ball out there. There are smiles on faces and that’s the way we want to play. We want a high tempo and we want to look after the ball,” said the centre, in the aftermath of his team’s record-breaking 53-24 success over the Wallabies on Saturday.
“The only thing [head coach] Gregor Townsend will ever fault you on is work-rate. If you’re not working hard then you’re not going to play. He doesn’t ever put the shackles on. He encourages Finn [Russell], myself, Ali [Price] and the boys to go out there and express ourselves,” he continued.
”And when you’ve got guys like Finn and Hoggy doing that, they’re among the best in the world – Hoggy’s performance against New Zealand was one of the best I’ve ever seen.
“It doesn’t matter who is playing. Whoever gets the jersey is expected to do the job. So, we didn’t have Hoggy against Australia and I think a few people in the stands would have been grumbling when they saw him go off in the warm-up, but Byron [McGuigan] comes in and gets man-of-the-match, Sean [Maitland] is outstanding at full-back and Ruaridh Jackson, who is having a cracking season, comes on to the bench.”
After a shaky start to the Autumn against Samoa, the boys in blue made a major statement about their ability to compete at the very top of the world game the following week when they had New Zealand on the ropes before eventually just coming up short, and they then proved that that performance was not a one-off with a breath-taking eight try annihilation of Australia on Saturday.
Now the team has set their sights on claiming some northern hemisphere scalps when the Six Nations comes around in the New Year.
“Against New Zealand we made a bit of a statement, showing that if we keep hold of the ball we can cut up one of the best teams in the world. Thankfully we have backed that up against a really good Aussie side and put them to the sword. Maybe in the past we’ve not been clinical enough so to score eight tries is pretty cool,” said Horne.
“It’s giving me goose-bumps just thinking about it. Even at the start of the game with the anthem. Last week it felt like the whole stadium was vibrating and it was the exact same this week. It’s hard not getting emotional because it’s special.
“It’s something Barcs [John Barclay] has spoken loads about: making this place a fortress so teams don’t want to come up here. I think we’ve laid down another marker today. It shows we weren’t a flash in the pan last week. We’ve come out and produced the goods. The crowd has been great, you hear the anthem being sung on 60 minutes, it just buzzes you up and you feel you can run all day.”
“I think everyone has got to take us seriously now. England are flying and have a real winning culture at the moment so they’ll always back themselves but it’s certainly a challenge we can’t wait for,” he continued, casting his sights ahead to the arrival of the Auld Enemy on 24th February.
“Like last week, as soon as the final whistle went against the All Blacks you just wanted to play them again the next day. That’s the feeling in the camp. We want to take on the best in the world and test ourselves against them. It will be great to face England and France at home and Ireland are flying, too. The Six Nations is going to be really competitive but we can’t wait.”
“In the past, against certain teams, we’ve maybe tried not to lose the game rather than trying to win it, especially with 20 to 30 minutes to go. That’s gone now, everyone is in the mind-set of ‘next job’. Barcs says just play every minute as it comes. We’re not talking too much about first 20 then tapering down, or staying in the game for 60 and going for it in the last 20. There’s nothing like that, we’re playing each minute as it comes.”
“There is a lot of work to do before the Six Nations, we can go back and perform for our clubs and then hopefully have the honour of being back for the Six Nations. We don’t want to be a team that has a few good games every now and again. We want to get consistency. It’s going to be challenging but certainly something we’re all up for.”
“We really need to keep kicking on. We don’t want to take one step forward and two back. It’s important that we knuckle down in the next few months – and come out all guns blazing in the Six Nations.”