IN HIS analysis of the Autumn Nations Series after Scotland’s win over Japan last  week, Gregor Townsend spoke of the value to the national team of having so many  more players with experience of Test rugby. A dozen members of the squad won their first caps over the course of the four games, and the head coach is looking forward to some of them, at least, competing with more established names for places in the matchday 23 when the Six Nations Championship comes around.

In the short term, however, it will be the players themselves  - and their clubs, of course - who will benefit from having had a taste of the international  arena. Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors both had four players who made their debuts, and those players are sure to be that bit more self-confident as they prepare for the return at the weekend of the United Rugby Championship.

Jamie Hodgson, for one, certainly has good reason to  have a lot of belief in his own ability. Having made his debut against Tonga along with seven other newcomers, when only Glasgow and Edinburgh players were available to Townsend, he was then one of just two - Pierre Schoeman being the other - to keep his place in the squad   the following week against Australia.

“The first cap was amazing,” said the 23-year-old lock, who is expected to be in the Edinburgh squad for tomorrow’s URC match against the Dragons. “It was a boyhood dream. And to get on the next week as we beat Australia was amazing. I don’t think I could have dreamt that: it was incredible.

“It’s probably not sunk in yet - it’s pretty surreal. I relished the opportunity and I hope I get the chance to do it again. I really, really enjoyed it and I’d love to pull on the thistle if I got another shot.

“I think to an extent you’re going ‘I just want to be involved more’. Once you’ve experienced it, it’s just the thought of wanting to do it again. Running out at a packed BT Murrayfield, there’s no better feeling in the world

“In terms of coming back to the club, you just want to kick on, play your best rugby, be involved as much as you can and do what you can do for Edinburgh. And then if the opportunity comes again with Scotland, grab it with two hands.

“I think the chat after the Tonga game was that lots of boys had put their hands up , and it’s amazing to have that depth going forward, especially with the World Cup in a couple of years’ time. To get involved in that second game was definitely a big confidence boost.”

The chat from Townsend before the Tonga game was refreshingly different, according to Hodgson. “I actually didn’t speak a huge amount to Gregor through the week,” he explained. “I found out in the middle of the week that I was going to be starting. Then I spoke to him the day before the game and it was really nice. It relaxed me. 

“Rather than being ‘You’ve got to do this, that and the next thing’ it was ‘How are you, how’s your family?’, and finding out about me. It was different and it was nice because it relaxed you and he said ‘Just go out there and do what you do’. It was really nice to have that and go in with a bit of confidence.”

Hodgson is aware that a degree of patience may well be required as he waits to add to his two caps. He and his Edinburgh team-mate Marshall Sykes got their chances this autumn in part because of the absence through injury of other, more experienced men who are all set to be in contention come the home game against England in February. Glasgow’s Scott Cummings is back already, Jonny Gray of Exeter is on the road to recovery after a shoulder operation, and Edinburgh’s Ben Toolis is eying a return to action early in the New Year.

“I think Scotland’s always had and always will have a lot of strength in depth in the  second row,” he added. “But taking from that experience the learnings I’ve got and the feedback I have from the coaches, it’s in my head that I want to kick on and see what happens.”