Edinburgh flanker John Hardie admits that, if he is picked to play in Scotland’s showdown with England on Saturday, it will have the feel of a ‘second debut’ as he dons the dark blue at BT Murrayfield for the first time.
Hardie is aiming to win his sixth cap after arriving from New Zealand to join the World Cup training squad last summer and, since then, has represented his adopted homeland in Turin, Paris, Gloucester, Newcastle and London.
The 27-year-old joined Edinburgh after the World Cup and has graced the national stadium a few times since but is savouring the full capacity-crowd experience of a Six Nations event.
“It’s really exciting and, if selected to play, it would be a massive moment,” he said. “It doesn’t get much bigger than the Calcutta Cup. I’ll be really ecstatic and it will be awesome for the team to get off to a good start.
“I think it is going to be really special. I have heard so much about the atmosphere when there are a lot of Scots in the stands. It will be a special moment if I get the chance to run out.”
In rugby-mad New Zealand, the northern hemisphere tournament has always attracted a curious nocturnal audience and Hardie grew up watching the annual jousts, with the Calcutta Cup always a highlight.
“It was very early in the morning there, so I used to watch it on a Sunday morning with dad,” he explained.
“I can remember Murrayfield was packed and you could get a sense of how much rivalry there was between the two teams. I was well aware of the Six Nations as a whole.”
Hardie said he feels very much at home now and is starting to be recognised more on the streets. “I suppose I get a couple coming up to me but I’m no Finn Russell or Stuart Hogg – just an ugly-looking forward,” he joked. “When you go to functions it’s good to mix and mingle. It gives you a bit of a lift and I can’t wait to get back into that Scotland jersey.”
Meanwhile, Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw is unfazed by Eddie Jones’ mind games, believing the more he indulges in them the less time he is spending focusing on the game.
New England coach Jones had initially attempted to install Scotland as favourites, citing their superior performance at the World Cup, but this week the Australian said: “I know [Scotland coach] Vern [Cotter] was upset about that so I apologise and if you want me to write a letter, I’ll write a letter of apology. We’re happy to be favourites.”
Laidlaw said: “I don’t take anything from these sort of games. Eddie can say what he likes. The more talking he does about us and different things hopefully the less he is concentrating on England.”