ALI Price faces a fight on three fronts this autumn. With Scotland, with Glasgow Warriors - and with George Horne for a place in the starting line-up of both teams.

Greig Laidlaw’s retirement from the international game means that both Glasgow scrum-halves should be in Gregor Townsend’s matchday 23 for the Six Nations match against Wales and for most if not all of the other five Tests between late October and early December, but getting into the squad is only half the battle: being first choice is what counts. 

To win that honour, Price will have to impress for the Warriors, first in the double-header against Edinburgh later this month, and then in the opening rounds of the new PRO14 season. Doing that could depend on being given sufficient game time ahead of Horne by new coach Danny Wilson, though Price also knows from experience that Townsend will not automatically select whoever is Glasgow’s first choice to be his own starting 9.

“It comes down to Gregor when we get in,” the 27-year-old said of the Scotland coach. “He’ll know who he’ll want to play. 

“When I came back to Glasgow after my foot injury, me and George were given a game about. I don’t know how Danny will go about it. In the Six Nations I got a few starts in a row for the first time during the season and I felt my performances improved throughout the tournament. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I was able to have a run at it. That benefits any player. Both of us will be given a shot early in the season and whoever is doing better then will be able to take it on.” 

The foot injury in question was sustained in the World Cup last September, ending Price’s involvement in the tournament after only one game. For a time after that, his chances of playing any part in the 2020 Six Nations appeared to be in the balance, but he recovered well, and in fact was restored to the Scotland 15 for all four games that were played. He kept his place in the team to face Wales in the last match too, but then the pandemic intervened. 

Added to his two starts at the end of the 2019 Six Nations, that means Price has now started Scotland’s last six games in the Championship - no mean feat given Laidlaw’s status as the senior member of the international squad and Horne’s growing reputation as an attacking scrum-half with a particular facility for broken-field sniping. Price’s last outing against Wales in the opening Six Nations match two years ago, in which he shouldered his share of the blame for an abject defeat and was dropped to the bench for the following four games, only makes him all the more eager to extend the sequence to seven at the end of October.

“I’m incredibly excited,” he said of the prospect of taking part in the crowded international calendar which awaits, in which Scotland are due to play a warm-up game against Georgia before they take on Wales then head into the proposed Eight Nations tournament. “I really enjoyed the Six Nations just gone. I thought out of the last three years of me playing in the tournament it was definitely the most enjoyable one I had. I felt I was incredibly consistent and it was nice to get a run of games. 

“So yeah, I’m excited for what’s to come this year and I’ll be trying to build on the level I got to during the Six Nations. It was a shame the Wales game got called off, because I think we all went down there full of confidence after the France game,” he continued, referring to the 28-17 win at BT Murrayfield which kept Scotland in the hunt for the title.

In the immediate future, of course, Price and Horne will be on the same side, plotting the downfall of Edinburgh in the double-header on the 22nd and 28th of this month which will conclude the regular PRO14 season. All but out of the play-offs, Glasgow have little to play for compared to their rivals, who stand on the brink of a place in the semi-finals. Nonetheless, the intensity of the rivalry will be undiminished - even though, as Price accepts, it will be highly unusual to go into such a big game after only a few weeks of full-contact work. 

“It is a strange one," he said. "We did live contact on Wednesday for the first time, we don’t work as a full squad till Monday, and we’re three and a half weeks from the game.

“Do I think it’s a bit soon after the lay-off we’ve had? Probably, but I understand the reason why these games need to go ahead. Anybody who takes the field will be ready.”