Twitter aids Horne to put Italian blues behind him By Richard Bath
Scotland centre recovers from error Followers on social media prove vital
Six months can be a lifetime in Test rugby, especially if you are Peter Horne. The Scotland back has come a long way since that dreich day at the beginning of this year when his missed touch kick in the dying minutes of Scotland’s Six Nations match against Italy allowed the
Azzurri forwards the chance to rumble towards Scotland’s line and claim a victory that all-but doomed Scotland to the wooden spoon. Yet within months such is his form that he is widely seen as a stick-on to be Scotland’s starting inside centre.
“It was a learning experience,” he said. “It was obviously a really low point, but I feel that I’ve bounced back. At the end of the day, the best moments of my life are about being on the field playing the game, and while something like that obviously affects you a bit for me it was just about getting back out there.”
Horne, who was playing stand-off that day because of Finn Russell’s suspension for a dangerous tackle against Wales, has been working hard with the physios to combat the cramp in the calf that afflicts him in the latter stages of games where he has had to do a lot of work in contact and at the breakdown.
Two weeks before that game against Italy, he had the same cramp as he kicked to touch against Zebre, only that time the ball li mped into touch. Late in the recent game against Ireland, despite being an 80 per cent goal kicker, he gave a late attempt to Ruaridh Jackson but insists it was a precautionary gesture. The gruelling World Cup training should mean that there is no chance of a repeat of the misfortune he suffered at Murrayfield.
The Italian episode that could have broken him, but Horne was instead bolstered by his followers on social media. Instead of laying into him, as happened to former Scotland back Nick De Luca – who was famously forced to come off Twitter after being the victim of vicious
‘Being trolled is not nice but you have to put your hand up. I made a mistake’
abuse after a yellow card at Murrayfield – Horne used the forum to develop the mental resilience needed to push for more caps.
“There is a downside to social media because everyone is entitled to their opinion, but thankfully it doesn’t bother me if someone thinks I’m rubbish,” he says. “I’ve had my moments though – obviously, after the Italian game I got a fair bit of stick, but you just have to take it on the chin. Being trolled is not nice but you have to put your hand up.
“I made a terrible mistake. It wasn’t as if I shied away from things. Your roll with the punches. It’s a fickle game and sometimes people love you, but other times they don’t.
“Thankfully for every one person who messaged me to give me stick, there were 10 or 20 telling me I shouldn’t worry about it. It just makes you want to bounce back.”
Since then Horne has developed into such a key player for Glasgow and Scotland that he is often singled out by team-mates when they are asked about Scotland’s most important players and leaders.
A non-stop talker, Horne organises the defence of the all-Glasgow midfield and has become a formidable tackler himself. In attack, his ability to offload in contact and a sweet left-to-right pass that can put Mark Bennett or Stuart Hogg into space are key weapons for Scotland.
With Alex Dunbar now out injured, Horne feels that he is in the right form and the right mental place to step up and take a key role in the World Cup campaign.
“I have forgotten about Italy and feel like I’m in the shape of my life. I’m lucky I got another chance and just can’t wait to get cracking.”
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Up and running: Peter Horne is a key player for Scotland