Danny Wilson took another step closer to finalising the make-up of his Glasgow Warriors squad for next season when it was announced yesterday afternoon that George Horne has signed a contract extension which will keep him at the club for at least one more season beyond the end of the current campaign.
With highly-rated youngster Jamie Dobie and the ever-reliable Sean Kennedy both recently agreeing new deals, and Ali Price – current first-choice scrum-half for both Glasgow and Scotland – already committed until at least next summer, a case could be made for a move away from Scotstoun being in the best interests of both the player and the club.
It would mean a fresh start and a new challenge for Horne as he looks to add some control to his jack-in-the-box attacking game, while it would allow Warriors to increase the amount of game time being given to 19-year-old Dobie and simultaneously free-up some valuable cash in the budget which could then be used to strengthen other areas of the squad such as back-row and back-three.
A section of Edinburgh fans have speculated that he should be the latest Warriors player sent east in order to get maximum value out of Scottish Rugby’s playing resources, but Charlie Shiel needs space to develop there in the same way as Dobie does at Glasgow, plus Horne’s off-the-cuff style does not appear to be a natural fit for the capital side’s regimented game-plan under Richard Cockerill.
A move to the English Premiership would be the more obvious next step, but we live in an uncertain world at the moment, and the player recruitment market is up in the air. At 25 years of age, Horne has perhaps decided that now is not the time to gamble his international prospects by taking a leap into the unknown.
“This is a club I’ve grown up supporting and I’ve made some great memories being a part of this team,” he said. “It’s a special atmosphere stepping out in front of the home crowd at Scotstoun and I’m looking forward to making more memories in front of them in the seasons to come.
“We’ve got a great group of boys who’ve created a real family atmosphere, and the guys that have come in recently have just added to that.”
Horne was a relatively late arrival on the professional scene. The Fifer served a long apprenticeship in the Scotland Sevens set-up and with London Scottish, before making his Warriors debut off the bench against Ospreys in November 2016 when he was 21. He signed his first pro contract ahead of the 2017-18 season, going on to win both Young Player and Player of the Season at the end of that campaign.
He has scored 31 tries in 60 appearances for the club to date, making him joint fourth top all-time try-scorer alongside Stuart Hogg (31 tries from 121 appearances) and Sean Lamont (31 tries from 112 appearances), and the leading try scorer with comfortably the most prolific strike rate. Those ahead of him on that list are DTH van der Merwe (54 tries in 123 games), Tommy Seymour (48 tries in 150 games) and Niko Matawalu (43 tries in 114 appearances).
His international debut came against the USA during the summer tour of 2018, and he has so far accumulated 14 caps to date, scoring six tries along the way, including a first hat-trick by a Scotland player in 12 years against Russia at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
While Horne’s extraordinary pace and fitness clearly marks him out a serious attacking threat, this question mark over whether he has the discipline and game sense to play a structured style as has been increasingly required by Gregor Townsend at Scotland and Wilson at Warriors persists – although it should be noted that he has been out of action with a foot injury sustained ahead of the November Test schedule, so hasn’t had a recent chance to show that he is able to adapt.
“Getting the chance to play alongside my brother Pete [a centre/stand-off for both Glasgow and until recently Scotland]has been amazing too – having the opportunity to continue to do that for Glasgow is one that really excites me and that I look forward to,” added Horne. “I’m champing at the bit to get back playing. Recovery is going really well, and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Wilson added: “George is very passionate about Glasgow and he shows that every time he takes the field. We’re thrilled that he’s committed his future to Glasgow Warriors and we’re looking forward to him getting back fit and available to play. Along with Jamie [Dobie], Ali [Price] and Sean [Kennedy], George’s signing gives us great depth with four outstanding Scottish scrum-halves to pick from.”