Rory Darge
In a surprise announcement, Scotland recently unveiled co-captains for the 2024 Championship.

The 23-year-old Glasgow back rower Rory Darge, who will share captaincy duties with fly-half Finn Russell, expressed his joy and, yes, surprise at the news.

"I wasn't expecting it. Gregor called me on the Saturday and let me know the day before the announcement. It was a cool moment,” Darge recounts. Joining forces with seasoned campaigner Russell excites him. “To do the role with someone like Finn is huge because he’s obviously got more experience than me. We’re both very different in our style of play, and how we look at the game, what we’re good at, so it’s a good balance. It makes sense.

“Even when Gregor was telling me he wanted to update me on the captaincy, I wasn’t thinking he would then say it was myself and Finn, but I was obviously delighted. I told my mum and dad. I think my mum got a bit teary-eyed. Among all the messages I received I got a nice one from Jamie [Ritchie, last season’s Scotland captain], and he said he would support me 100%, which was really nice to hear.”

Darge's leadership journey has been steadily evolving. He captained Scotland against Italy during last year’s Summer Nations Series, and has assumed the role through the national age grades and at Glasgow. Learning from stalwarts like Ritchie and Grant Gilchrist has helped him graduate to the position.

His leadership style, as he describes it, centres around authenticity and, crucially, on-field performance. "I've been asked if I see it as a burden, but you actually need to look at it as an opportunity, and just be grateful that you've been selected for it."

To look ahead to Scotland’s first game against Wales in Cardiff is to also cast his mind back to his Test debut against the same opponents two years ago. “The atmosphere, the noise,” says Darge, who hails from the quiet coastal village of Aberlady – a far cry from the sensory overload of 74,000 roaring fans in the Welsh capital. “Experiencing all that emotion, and to then go on a flight home and lie down in your room trying to sleep…”

How does he manage to switch off? “I think I’m learning. It’s something I can get better at, switching off. I think it’s so important for rugby players, especially during the Six Nations, just because of how tense it gets.”

According to Darge, nothing can prepare a player for the intensity of a Test match. Particularly their debut. “The fact I was playing against Wales, and I’d played for Glasgow against a lot of the same Welsh players, was a bit of reassurance,” says Darge. “But it’s still a different level completely. You can tell yourself it’s not, but you’re kidding yourself.

"The intensity, the emotion, singing the national anthem with your family in the crowd. Then it’s straight into a Test match. I think you can do lots of prep but at the end of the day you’re putting yourself into the unknown.”

Darge acknowledges the particular hurdle that awaits at Principality Stadium next weekend. "It's always the same in the Six Nations: you can never really look past the first game, regardless of who you're playing. But for us, Wales in Cardiff is a game that we've not got a great history in, so that's a massive challenge."

You can be sure that, between the vision of Russell and the prosaic power game of Darge, Scotland are in safe hands.

Wales v Scotland, Principality Stadium, Saturday 3rd February, 16:45.