PETER HORNE has backed ‘class act’ Finn Russell to brush off his shock substitution at the weekend and bring the X-factor back for Scotland against England.
Head coach Gregor Townsend pulled off a major surprise towards the end of Sunday’s triumph over France when he took off stand-off Russell and switched scrum-half Greig Laidlaw to the play-maker position.
The move worked, with Laidlaw landing the penalties that gave the Scots a 32-26 victory and replacement scrum-half Ali Price injecting energy and pace into the match just as the French appeared to be tiring.
The decision was seen in many quarters as a slap in the face to Russell, whose kicking had been poor and who had put in a below-par performance in the defeat to Wales the previous week.
However, Glasgow Warriors team-mate Horne is confident Russell will not allow it to dent his confidence for the visit of the Auld Enemy to BT Murrayfield a week on Saturday.
Horne, a stand-out performer at inside centre, said: “Finn will just brush that off.
“It wasn’t like he wasn’t playing well. There were maybe a couple of things that didn’t go his way but I guess that’s the type of player Finn is.
“He’s got so much class he can just brush [off] the mistakes. The majority of the time, the next thing he does is something real X-factor, with real quality.
“Finn’s a big-game player, so I’m sure against England he’ll be back to his best. He’s a class act.”
Horne has confessed Scotland were left ‘distraught’ by their 34-7 defeat to Wales in Cardiff in their Six Nations opener, when he darted over for the late consolation try.
But the 28-year-old insists Sunday’s success against France has restored faith in their ability ahead of the clash with England, who are ranked number two in the world and are favourites for the championship and a possible Grand Slam.
Horne added: “We’ll look at ourselves first and we know that when we play our best rugby we can mix it with the best teams.
“England are certainly one of the best teams in the world, they’re a quality, quality side.
“They maybe haven’t been firing on all cylinders so far, but they’ve shown how good they are by the fact they’ve managed to win their two games.
“It’s obviously a massive challenge but, for the first time in a while, it’s something we are all so excited about in the squad. There’s a real sense of belief that we can turn England over on our own patch.
“We’re not getting ahead of ourselves. It’s going to be a big couple of weeks of preparation.”
LAUGH IT OFF
Meanwhile, Horne insists the Scotland camp will simply ignore any attempts by England head coach Eddie Jones to wind them up with his trademark jibes.
Jones mocked the Scots even before the tournament began and, after teasing Wales before their encounter at the weekend, is expected to use more mind-games in the coming days.
Horne told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Rugby Union Weekly: “I’m sure he can’t say anything worse than what we’ve been getting [after the Wales game].
“You’ve got to take the rough with the smooth and we’ll be fine. You’ve just got to laugh it off and get on with it.
“It will just add to the occasion. I’m sure it will rile the fans a bit but I don’t think we’ll read into it too much.”