The Townsend Era: Player Debuts – Backs

First debut – Nick Grigg v Fiji 2017

While in terms of the result this might not have been the most auspicious match for Nick to make his debut, for the occasion and the experience a rare Tier 1 Test in the rugby mad nation of Fiji would be hard to beat. Nick was a regular in the centres for Gregor Townsend’s sides over the next couple of years. His barrelling, aggressive carrying allied to his low centre of gravity made him a different prospect from any of the other midfield candidates. Newly reunited with his hair and with a contract extension at Glasgow Warriors, Squiggsy will still be pressing for inclusion in Scotland squads going forward.

Most recent debut – Kyle Steyn v France 2020

Kyle’s whirlwind rise through the ranks saw him feature first for the 7s in March 2018 and make his Glasgow debut in February 2019 before becoming Scotland cap number 1109 in March 2020. Against France the wing/centre (or centre/wing depending on who you’re arguing with) demonstrated the same attributes that have cemented him into the Warriors’ selections so quickly. His energy and appetite for work saw him put in some excellent hits on French opponents. The former Griquas’ player should hopefully get more opportunities to showcase his attacking talents in future games.

Three key debuts

Blair Kinghorn v England 2018

There must be worse ways to make your debut than in a Calcutta Cup win against England at Murrayfield. Across the last 40 years Jason White and Richard Metcalfe (in 2000) are the only other players to start their Test careers in such memorable fashion. With 23 selections for Scotland among the backs only Ali Price (27) has been picked more times than Blair by Gregor Townsend. The precocious youngster already has more than 100 top level games under his belt, despite only turning 23 in January, and will be central to Edinburgh and Scotland’s plans for years to come.

Adam Hastings v Canada 2018

The man with one of the most famous surnames in Scottish rugby history beat his old man to a Test debut by nearly 2½ years, featuring against Canada while aged 21 (big Gav was 24 when he took his bow against France in 1986). Ever since Finn Russell burst onto the international scene in 2014 he had dominated the 10 shirt for Scotland but Adam has managed 11 Test starts at stand off and demonstrated that he can put some pressure on the mercurial Russell. In all Adam has played 20 out of the last 24 games for Scotland becoming one of the first names on the teamsheet for the matchday squad.

Sam Johnson v Italy 2019

There was a bit of a delay for Sam when it came to making his Scotland debut. He qualified in time for the 2018 Autumn internationals but injury intervened, postponing his first appearance until the start of the 2019 Six Nations. Since then he’s been a key component in Gregor Townsend’s midfield with 13 starts in the last 17 Tests for the dark blues. In that time, he’s had four different partners at outside centre (Huw Jones, Nick Grigg, Rory Hutchinson and Chris Harris) but no matter who he’s played alongside, Sam has just remained one of Scotland’s most consistent performers.

Other debuts

Chris Harris v Samoa 2017
Byron McGuigan v New Zealand 2017
Phil Burleigh v Australia 2017
James Lang v Canada 2018
George Horne v USA 2018
Darcy Graham v Wales 2018
Rory Hutchinson v France 2019

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