Harry Paterson debut
Discovering you are going to make your Test debut ranks among the highlights of a rugby player’s career.

Most do not find out they will be earning their first cap only a matter of hours before kick-off – but that is exactly what happened to Scotland's Harry Paterson.

He was told at nine o'clock on Saturday morning that he could potentially be making his international bow at Scottish Gas Murrayfield and an hour later, it was confirmed that the 22-year-old was taking the place of Kyle Steyn in the starting XV.

With Steyn's wife in labour, Paterson was thrust into the breach as Scotland reshuffled their backline to move Kyle Rowe to the wing and start the Edinburgh Rugby full-back.

As Blair Kinghorn is yet to return from a knee injury that has kept him out of the first two round of the Guinness Men's Six Nations, Townsend has already had to trial the depth of his backline options and ultimately blood the former Fettes College schoolboy.

Paterson has made nine appearances for Edinburgh since his debut in 2021, while also spending time with Scotland Sevens and both Heriot's Rugby and Watsonian in the FOSROC Super Series.

He looked comfortable on his introduction to the international stage and was essential to his team's opening score, an industrious run through the France defence after receiving the ball from Duhan van der Merwe helping set up Ben White's try.

Growing in confidence with every passing minute, Paterson's kicking game soon caused France issues as Matthieu Jalibert failed to gather the ball, giving Scotland a scrum deep in enemy territory.

His overall display pleased his head coach no end, with Gregor Townsend hailing the performance as ‘one of the best debuts I’ve ever seen’.

"We were playing a top three, top four team in the world, against the backline that they have there, on a wet day at Murrayfield,” he added.

"I gave him a heads up at nine this morning and confirmed at 10 o’clock that he was starting. To play like that was fantastic and gives us a lot of encouragement about where he can go in the next few years."

The only thing denying Paterson a perfect debut was the result.

Having been unable to press home their territorial advantage, a fine individual score for France wing Louis Bierre-Biarrey proved the difference between the two teams as Fabien Galthie's picked up a 20-16 win and bounce back from their opening round loss to Ireland in Marseille.

Reflecting on a rollercoaster debut, Paterson said: "It’s a confusing one, to be honest.

"There was about five minutes of panic this morning when I was told, but after that I was a bit more settled and just pretty buzzing to be honest.

"[It was] significantly the best crowd I have ever played in front of, it was awesome. 

"I had to keep the emotions in check during the anthem and just focus on the game, but it was a pretty special day."

The full-back coped well with France's long kicking game beneath murky, wet skies at Scottish Gas Murrayfield, continuing a run of good performances that contributed to the 22-year-old gaining international recognition in the first place.

Scotland’s no.15 jersey is up for grabs following Stuart Hogg’s retirement prior to last autumn’s World Cup, along with Kinghorn’s injury, and as auditions go, this was a promising one.

"He grew in the game," Townsend said. "He knew he’d have a lot of kicks to field and he just got stronger and stronger.

“He really impressed us with how he played in away games this year. He had to go to Belfast, Clermont, he stood up there and that says something about a player, that you can stand up in the big environments and the tough environments. 

"And now he has shown he can do it at Test level."

With Kinghorn nearing a return from injury and Steyn likely to be available again for the Calcutta Cup clash in two weeks' time, the 22-year-old may yet not feature in the full-blooded encounter with the old enemy.

But Paterson's first senior Scotland appearance has given his head coach a selection dilemma and earmarked him as a potential regular in Townsend's team for years to come.