Scotland centre Peter Horne has somehow accumulated 30 international caps over the past six years without ever facing “the auld enemy”.
He will do so at BT Murrayfield tomorrow and, while Alex Dunbar and Duncan Taylor are both unavailable, coach Gregor Townsend opted to field Horne as a second playmaker in the Scottish midfield.
His Scotland team wants to attack with the ball in hand and having a Kiwi-style inside centre in the backs helps take ease some of the burden off stand-off Finn Russell who England say they will target. And if you doubt the effectiveness of fielding dual playmakers just look at Saturday’s opposition because Horne has.
“They are both really special players, I think (Owen) Farrell really helps (George) Ford,” said the Scot. “Ford is obviously a really talented, special player but Farrell outside him just makes him tick, takes a lot of the pressure off him.
“They are both fantastic at taking the ball to the line and trying to draw people on to them and then putting other people through. In the past some of our coaches have spoken to Sarries’ coaches and I have picked up little drills that Owen (Farrell) does after training to try and help my own game. Yeah, he’s a really special player and I am really excited to have a crack at him.”
It looks suspiciously like Horne is modelling his rugby career on Owen Farrell and he could do a lot worse so.
“I like to think I help Finn out and take some of the pressure off him,” he added. “A big role in my game is to try and organise outside of me and give Finn plenty of space in which to operate.
“We’re probably not at the same stage as Ford and Farrell but I think we have a really good relationship and I think we do work well together. He’s put me through plenty of holes and I’d like to think I take a lot of pressure off him.
“When you are playing at ten you have so much to worry about like forwards trying to get up and smash you. Sometimes you can’t look up and see what’s out there and you cannot underestimate the value of having someone out there calling it for you.”
Horne will surely have been asked to step in and take over more of Scotland’s kicking game if Russell has another wayward afternoon with the boot. It was the kicking game of England that beat Wales and Scotland need an efficient kick/chase if only to free up some space elsewhere.
Scotland have been love-bombing England all week. Townsend’s heaped praise on his counterpart Eddie Jones at Wednesday’s Scotland team announcement, “brilliant coach – excellent squad” and Horne was following his line in flattery this week “fantastic side”.
There is little hope that Jones will allow any complacency in his squad but the Scots are doing their best to generate it all the same.
“They are very well drilled, they are difficult to break down,” says Horne when asked about England. “There are times when you freeze things, it looks like there is a lot of space but trying to get the ball there is very, very difficult.
“They do come up hard, they defend really well, they have a good system and they have some individuals who can break the game up.
“If anything that should inspire our boys to bring out their best performance of the season and we know that we have to be on point at all time against them or else they are very clinical.”