Confident Chris Harris says Scotland can still win Six Nations but he’d be devastated to miss France match

Chris Harris is at the centre of the action during a Scotland training session at the Oriam. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNSChris Harris is at the centre of the action during a Scotland training session at the Oriam. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
Chris Harris is at the centre of the action during a Scotland training session at the Oriam. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
Chris Harris has enough confidence in Scotland’s abilities to believe they can win this season’s Six Nations but the centre admits he would be devastated to miss the match against France if the game is pushed back a week.

A decision will be made on Wednesday evening on whether the fixture in Paris can go ahead as scheduled on Sunday.

Tournament organisers are considering postponing the game until the weekend of March 6-7 because of the spread of coronavirus in the French squad. Ten players and three staff members have tested positive for Covid-19.

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Scotland are eager for the game to be played this weekend because a delay could affect the availability of their English-based players.

Chris Harris shakes hands with his Gloucester team-mate Louis Rees-Zammit after Scotland's defeat by Wales. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty ImagesChris Harris shakes hands with his Gloucester team-mate Louis Rees-Zammit after Scotland's defeat by Wales. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images
Chris Harris shakes hands with his Gloucester team-mate Louis Rees-Zammit after Scotland's defeat by Wales. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Harris, who plays for Gloucester, has been a mainstay of the Scotland side over the last couple of years. He has played in every international since the 2019 World Cup and is desperate to be involved at the Stade de France but knows the decision could be taken out of his hands.

The problem for Scotland is that March 6-7 is not a designated international weekend so clubs have first call on their players, as per World Rugby’s regulation 9.

Harris could therefore find himself at the centre of a tug of war, with Gloucester coach George Skivington on one side and national boss Gregor Townsend on the other.

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“That’s out of my control,” he said. “You do as you’re told, effectively. It’s up to Gregor and George Skivington to talk to each other and discuss my whereabouts.

Chris Harris said he would be 'devastated' to miss Scotland's match in France.Chris Harris said he would be 'devastated' to miss Scotland's match in France.
Chris Harris said he would be 'devastated' to miss Scotland's match in France.

“I would be pretty upset [to miss the game],” he said. “I want to play for Scotland, I want to play for my country, so I’d be pretty devastated on a personal level.

“But, if it’s not safe to play, it’s not safe, and if I have to go back to Gloucester and I’m not allowed to come back up . . . Whether they can make tweaks to those laws, again this is all stuff that’s out of my hands. It’s out of all the players’ hands: we’ve just got to crack on and focus on the week, not let that be a distraction.”

There are 13 English-based players in the Scotland squad to play France so pushing the game back to one of the Six Nations fallow weekends could rob Townsend of frontline players such as Stuart Hogg, Jonny Gray, Sean Maitland and James Lang as well as Harris.

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Six Nations organisers say ensuring the health and safety of all players and staff is their main priority and the good news on Tuesday was that no new cases had been uncovered in the French camp following the latest round of testing on Monday night.

“We obviously want to play it,” added Harris. “But ultimately if medical staff think it’s not going to be safe, then you’ve got to trust their judgment. But it wouldn’t be ideal with Reg 9 going into the fallow week - we would potentially lose boys.

“We really want it to go ahead, as a group and a nation. We’re in a good place to go over there and really do a job. That’s our focus.”

Scotland made a stunning start to the Championship by defeating England at Twickenham for the first time in 38 years. The momentum was stalled by the narrow home defeat by Wales but Harris still believes Scotland are good enough to win the title.

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“We’re ready for it,” he said. “We’re feeling good, we’re playing well. I think that’s quite exciting. We’re up there, we’re in with a shot. It’s a big game for us - if we go over then and we win, it puts us in a real good spot to win the comp.

“Everyone believes it. We’ve just got to go out there and do the job. That’s also why we’re keen for this game to go ahead.

“If we can beat France, we’ve then got two home games to come. So it’s a good opportunity for us.”

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Harris has started Scotland’s last nine internationals, winning six of them. A defensive bulwark at outside centre, he is keen to develop the attacking side of his game.

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Now 30, the Carlisle-born player says his Test career has been a “slow burn”.

“I think I’ve been involved in most – if not all games – since the World Cup,” he said. “It’s been a really good run for me personally.

“I was maybe a little bit of a slow-burner to start with, I don’t know. I was just taking that little bit of extra time to settle and grow in confidence.”

He now finds it easier to make the transition from club game to Test matches.

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“It’s one of those things that I’ve just got used to. I’ve done it now for a couple of years. This last 12 months has been the first year where I’ve been up in Scotland more than I’ve been down there and that has helped.”

Harris’ increased sense of belief is echoed throughout the squad. Having got the Twickenham monkey off their backs and having triumphed in Wales last October for the first time in 18 years, the current side are now looking for a victory at the Stade de France, a venue Scotland have not won at since 1999.

“It’s the confidence and belief you take from those results,” said Harris. “You think to yourself: ‘we can do this’.

“I’ve never actually played in Paris, so I don’t know what it’s like. But we’re playing in empty stadiums at the moment, it’s probably going to be similar to playing at all the other empty stadiums.

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“We are full of confidence and we all believe that we can win the Championship.”

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