Small margins and the incredible pace of the game are Rory Darge’s big impressions of his Murrayfield debut in the disappointment against France.
The 22-year-old was one of the few – maybe the only – bright spots for Scotland in a crushing 36-17 reverse that didn’t flatter France on their way to a potential Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam.
Darge proved that less than a year after escaping the shadow of Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie at Edinburgh to go to Glasgow he’s already an alternative to the established pair, both missing on Saturday.
But he didn’t expect a debut try and for it to be such a seamless step up.
‘I was confident, but did have those nerves’
“I was a bit nervous before the game, because it’s your first start at a new level,” he said. “You obviously have…not doubts exactly, but nervousness about how you’re going to fare. I think I was still confident, but I did have those nerves in the back of my mind.”
“What’s important to me is not something technical or tactical. It’s just the moments in the game. What kind of impact small moments can have, and how they can turn into a result that is obviously not good to be on the end of.”
The plan had been for Darge and Hamish Watson to attack the breakdown with referee Karl Dickson known to be a stickler for holding on penalties. But after Watson’s late positive Covid test Darge made a fair first of it on his own.
“Hamish was out before before the captain’s run,” he continued. “It was nice that I got to run the reps, but it didn’t actually change much in terms of what my role was on the set piece or the starters (plays) or anything like that.
“It wasn’t a huge adjustment the day before a game.”
‘He was outstanding in defence and attack’
Head coach Gregor Townsend said Darge was “a big contributor” in both attack and defence.
“We knew in terms of the stats that Karl Dixon rewards jackals. That is one of the reasons we went into the game with two open sides,” he said.
“At times we did well in that area, especially Rory. I thought he was outstanding in defence and attack and his ball carrying was really good.
“The effort he put in for 80 mins was superb. But defence is not just about jackals and winning turnovers at the rucks. It is about other things.
“It is about forcing teams back counter rucking, getting rips. You saw France got three rips against us in the last ten, 15 mins.
“That is a team thing. We must make sure as a team we are putting pressure on opposition ball in defence. We know we can improve in that area, just like we can improve in attack.”
Best XV for Rome
Townsend will consider changes for Italy, but he will be putting out his strongest team, he said.
“Obviously last year Stuart (Hogg) played 10 because Finn (Russell) was not available,” he said. “We will look at everybody. There are players outside our squad who are doing well so we have two weeks to access that.
“We know we have to put our best team out and put on our best performance to win in Italy. They will be hugely motivated by this scoreline today and France getting tries from our errors.
We will have to play a lot better next week to win that game. As coaches we will believe we will do that.”