Chris Harris: I’m a better player because of my Cardiff struggle
The centre endured a miserable Six Nations bow last year.
Chris Harris suffered calamity in Cardiff on his Six Nations debut – now the Scotland centre is seeking atonement against the Azzurri.
The Newcastle midfielder lasted just 54 minutes on his first and only championship start to date 12 months ago as he stumbled through the Dark Blues’ shambolic opener against Wales at the Principality Stadium.
A fateful knock-on just as the Scots appeared set to hit back after a disastrous start was bad enough for the 28-year-old, but a number of lapses in defence ensured it was a day to forget.
And it looked as though the Scotland faithful would soon struggle to remember Harris’ name as he was cast aside by Townsend for the remainder of the tournament.
To his credit, though, the Carlisle-born back – eligible for Scotland thanks to an Edinburgh-born grandmother – refused to let that dreadful display define his international career and his performances with the Falcons earned him a recall for both the summer and autumn Test series.
Now he hopes the next stage in his search for redemption will come as he makes his Six Nations return Italy at BT Murrayfield on Saturday in the first match of this year’s edition.
He said: “It was a tough day at the office for me personally as well as for the team.
“But with games like that you learn a lot about yourself as a player and about yourself mentally.
“I’ve become a better person and better player because of it.
“Was there a hangover after that match? Did it take time to recover? Initially yes, I was on a bit of a downer. But you’ve just got to try to get yourself back on the horse.
“You don’t really have time to dwell on disappointments like that. Obviously I didn’t feature for the rest of the championship, so I put my focus into going back to Newcastle and trying to play well for them.
“I think I did that and that’s why I’m here now.
“I went on the summer tour then played in the autumn and I hope I have proved myself during those two periods more so than I did against Wales last year.
“That game down in Cardiff was a big moment in my career but I feel like I have learned from it. Now I just need to kick on and focus on the task ahead rather than dwelling on what’s behind me.”
Harris has had to fight his way back in to Townsend’s thinking but the battle is not over just yet.
Scotland are well-stocked in the centre slots, with Huw Jones, Peter Horne, Sam Johnston, Nick Grigg among the jostling to face the Italians and the likes of Alex Dunbar, Matt Scott and Duncan Taylor also hoping to return to the international fold.
“Is the shirt up for grabs? Maybe,” said Harris. “Competition for places is only going to result in better individual performances.
“But I think you’ve got to focus on yourself, do the best you can and if you get the opportunity then take it.
“I’d like to think my club form and what I did during the autumn has shown Gregor I’m getting to the level required now.
“Doing well over the next few weeks in the Six Nations can only do good things for my career. It’s a very tough competition obviously and I haven’t got a lot of experience in it before.
“But I want to take my opportunity and give it a real crack then hopefully be part of the first Scotland team to win the Six Nations.”