Six Nations 2015: Peter Horne needs to get basics right for Scots
|Six Nations 2015: Scotland v Italy|
|Venue: Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh Date: Saturday, 28 February Kick-off: 14:30 GMT|
|Coverage: Watch live on BBC One, BBC One HD, online, tablets, mobiles and BBC Sport app from 14:00 GMT; listen on BBC Radio Scotland; text commentary on BBC Sport website.|
Fly-half is one of the critical positions on the rugby pitch; they shoulder much of the responsibility for the team's fortunes, often chastised for a loss and lauded in victory.
In terms of numbers they will probably have the second highest involvements in a game (generally, scrum-half having the highest) but it is often their decisions that will have the greatest bearing on a Test match - their run, pass and kick balance the most indicative of how the team are trying to play.
Vern Cotter has opted for Peter Horne to take this key role for Scotland against Italy on Saturday. His choice wasn't huge, Greig Tonks the other viable option, but don't be too alarmed as Horne is a very talented player.
He's not played a great amount of senior rugby at 10 but has started the last two Glasgow Warriors games there and their head coach Gregor Townsend had no issues starting him in the position in the Pro12 final last year.
He has a long left foot that will provide options in Scotland's kicking game, a strong passing game, solid defence and a deceptive running game. The familiarity of his Warriors three-quarters will provide plenty of comfort too and will certainly have helped with his selection cause.
For half-backs, it's vital to get into the rhythm of a game. For Horne that means getting early positive touches and performing the basics well - a good solid kick-off, exit kick or getting the ball through the hands.
He needs to feel comfortable with the speed of the game as soon as possible. Captain and scrum-half Greig Laidlaw will help but shouldn't protect him too much as often when you are trying to look after your 10 you're just keeping him from building confidence through involvements and the less touches you get the more nervous you can become.
Euan Murray gets the nod at tight-head, which was probably always the plan but Geoff Cross had put a strong shift in against the Welsh so there will have at least been a selection discussion.
Tim Swinson is selected in the second row due to his mobility and aggression in the contact, one would presume. He likes the rough stuff, which will please Cotter.
Defensively, Scotland must keep some Italian running threats under control. Sergio Parisse is an obvious target with his carrying and offloading game, but Luca Morissi, who excelled at Twickenham, has the x-factor too.
With Kelly Haimona selected in the 10 jersey for Italy I think there is a real opportunity to get line speed up on his outside shoulder, cutting out the wider options, like Morissi, and making him turn back in.
He's not completely comfortable with the speed of international rugby yet and against England he didn't appear to have the confidence to challenge the line whilst still being able to distribute. He does have a tidy short kicking game on him, though, and has obvious talent with a pick-up off his toes and inch-perfect chip kick against England evidence of this.
Despite having Luke McLean at full-back with a huge left foot, Italy seem keen to attack from deep so Scotland's kick chase will have to be accurate and disciplined. Done well, this will be a great way to put the pressure on and gain field position because although they have the mentality and ambition to counter attack this isn't necessarily backed up with their ability to do so.
Having Tommy Seymour back from injury will maybe convince Scotland to use competitive kicks as more of a strategy as this is one of Seymour's strengths. However, the way that contact in the air is being refereed it might be best to stay away from this tactic.
In attack, I would suggest that width is the key. The Italians tend to come up fairly hard in the middle of their defensive line but will tail off a bit on the edges, which should allow Scotland to make good yardage.
This is a game that Scotland are expected to win and this brings with it increased pressure but as is the case with Pete Horne, it is all about doing the basics well in these types of games.
In the team's case, it's winning your set piece, winning the territory battle, not giving away stupid penalties and building phases. Do this and the class of the backs will shine through eventually.