Peter Horne has urged Scotland not to be strangled by fear as they prepare for Saturday’s vital RBS 6 Nations duel with Italy.
The Dark Blues are still trying to pick themselves up after suffering their ninth successive Championship defeat in Wales last week before they jet out to Rome. It was another case of what might have been after Vern Cotter’s side put themselves in a strong position before fading in the final 20 minutes.
Glasgow centre Horne saw enough in that 27-23 loss to take encouragement ahead of facing the Azzurri this weekend.
However, the 26-year-old – who should return to the Scots’ match-day 23 after shaking off the foot injury which ruled him out of the competition’s opening fortnight – is worried the likes of full-back Stuart Hogg may end up being shackled by a desperation not to leave gaps when he should be taking the kind of risks that could open Italy up. Horne said: “It sucks when we’re losing. It’s horrible but you have to strive to do better. However, you don’t want to put too much pressure on yourself. Instead of trying to win the match, you go in trying not to lose. If that happens, everyone goes into their shell and you can’t have that.
“We’re here for a reason. We’ve got some of the most exciting outside backs in the world but what good is it if the likes of Hoggy and the others are going into their shell? That’s not going to help anyone. We need them to be expressing themselves. Any time Hoggy gets the ball in a bit of space I light up because I think something is going to happen. That’s what we want. We want it to spread through the rest of the squad.”
The buzz which enveloped the Scotland camp after their run to the World Cup quarter-finals has well and truly drifted away after back-to-back losses against England and Wales.
But Horne believes Scotland are continuing to progress.
“It’s been a while since we won a Six Nations match but there’s no-one hurting more than the players,” he said as he faced up to the harsh reality that defeat on Saturday would make it ten straight losses and put Cotter’s team on course for a second whitewash in as many years. He continued: “We’re desperate to set the record straight and get that win. We’re all gutted at how things have gone. “We’re trying to remain positive. We didn’t play well against England but we did against Wales. There were some brilliant moments in Cardiff.
“What you can’t forget though is that at this level, the differences between sides are so small. The games are decided on a few instances. The England game showed that. They had two chances and took them to win the game. We had a couple, didn’t take them and lost. There are still three games left. It’s not like this weekend is the be all and end all. We could win all three and people might see it as a successful Six Nations.”
Meanwhile, Harlequins wing Tim Visser has also declared himself fit to face Italy but London Irish duo Sean Maitland and Blair Cowan have pulled out of the squad.
The Glasgow trio of Alex Allan, Chris Fusaro and Pat MacArthur have also pulled out hurt with Scotstoun colleagues Grayson Hart, Rob Harley and Ryan Wilson, as well as Edinburgh’s George Turner and Hamish Watson, called in as cover.