GEORGE Horne has had a tough two seasons during which a combination of injury at inopportune moments and a game-plan at club level which did not suit his natural devil-may-care instincts combined to limit game time, which in turn caused a drop down the pecking order at both Glasgow Warriors and with Scotland.
One swallow does not make a summer, but Friday night’s performance for Warriors as they brought to an end their six-match losing streak with a performance against Cardiff which bristled with self-belief and ambition suggests that an upturn in his career trajectory might be on the cards.
It was the second match on the trot that Horne had been handed the No.9 jersey by new head coach Franco Smith, ahead of British and Irish Lion Ali Price, and while their United Rugby Championship round one defeat away to Benetton last weekend was not the sort of performance any Warrior could come from away feeling like they had enhanced their reputation, this rip-roaring 52-24 home win was a different kettle of fish.
It was a flashback to the club’s glory days under Gregor Townsend and Warriors fans will hope a portent of some happy times ahead under Smith.
Horne led from the front, scoring a try and kicking six out of a possible eight conversions in a man-of-the-match performance, including three screamers in quick succession from wide on the right as Warriors took a stranglehold of the match midway through the first half.
The 27-year-old has a long-established reputation as a threat with ball in hand and as a dangerous support runner, but there was also maturity and game-management in this performance.
“It was really good to be back at home and back playing again,” he said, immediately after the team’s first Scotstoun appearance in almost six months. “I’ve had a few injuries over the past couple of seasons, so it was, actually, a bit emotional, and I loved every minute of it.
“It was very frustrating over the past couple of years because I wasn’t playing as much as I’d have liked. It’s the same for everyone when you’re injured. You just feel like you can’t really contribute.
“The more you play and get a run under your belt, then the more you start to get into a rhythm. In saying that, competition for places is also healthy. We’ve got a good group of nines at the club and we’re all pushing each other to get better.
“That’s the most I’ve enjoyed a game in a while,” he said. “We kind of got back to our old DNA of attacking, holding on to the ball and playing at high speed.
“We weren’t talking about being fearful or anything after what happened last week. The theme was to try and be brave and show what we can do. We didn’t go into our shells and try to not lose the game. The mindset was to try and win.
“We played from inside our own 22 quite often and scored some great tries from inside our own half.
“We set out to fire the first shot and really take the game to Cardiff. We were frustrated since we didn’t really do that last week.
“I think you could see the enjoyment in all of us. We scored a lot of tries and had a lot of fun. It brought the best out in us. It’s something that we’re probably more comfortable doing – playing a riskier, high-tempo style of rugby.
“We did that for almost the full 85 minutes, given that the clock ran over, and we didn’t want to kick the ball out at the end. That shows our fitness.”
Horne added that he is enjoying working under older brother Pete, who hung up his boots last December after 182 Warriors appearances and 45 caps for Scotland, and who was appointed a skills coach at the club during the summer.
“It’s amazing because he brings so much energy to the coaching staff,” said the proud younger sibling. “All the boys respect him so much. He’s actually like a big brother to everyone in the squad, to be honest.
“No one wants to let him down because he’s a special figure at the club given what he achieved as a player.
“He’s always giving me things to work on. But everyone is going to him and asking about things.”