THE Scotland players had just finished their morning training session when news came through that Stuart Hogg, their team-mate, had just been ruled out of the British & Irish Lions tour with the injury he picked up last weekend. You could see how disappointed they were for their popular colleague.

"Everybody is gutted," was the response from Duncan Taylor, the Saracen who took Hogg's 15 jersey last weekend. "He is a great player and a big loss to the Lions.

"There are not many players like him in the world. All we can do is wish him all the best for his recovery.

"Every time you see him play you realise how good a player he is. His footwork, his speed, his ability to see a gap and take it – there aren’t that many players out there as deadly as him, especially on the counter-attack.

"His kicking game is spot on as well. He adds being able to kick goals from 60 metres. He is a pretty special player, a pretty special talent."

For Taylor himself, who had a good game at full-back himself last week against Italy despite his lack of experience in the team, the Lions were never a realistic prospect after a season wrecked by two ankle operations, a shoulder problem, a hamstring issue and the after-effects of a head knock.

He may have the satisfaction of a European Champions Cup winners medal, but he didn't play any international rugby at all and managed only five games all season.

"I made my peace with it a long time ago. Without having played any international stuff I didn't feel I deserved to be there," he admitted.

Which is not to suggest he is short of ambition. His task is to cement a place in the Scotland side, though exactly were he will fit in under Gregor Townsend's coaching is a lot harder to say. He is wary of the risk of being the perfect benchman, able to cover a multitude of positions.

"That can happen but it’s not something I worry about too much," Taylor said. "I just want to give it my all in whatever position I play and make a positive impact. If I’m on the bench, I’m on the bench; if I’m starting I’m starting.

"It’s not necessarily about trying different positions, it’s just that if the team needs you there, for whatever reason, then you fill in. I’m more than happy to play across the backline. It doesn’t really bother me where I’m playing," he said.

Full back is not the long-term answer; Hogg and Sean Maitland are going to slot in there when fit. Centre is where Saracens play him, but the competition is just as hot there – Alex Dunbar and Matt Scott started on Saturday with Peter Horne covering the whole midfield from the bench. Nick Grigg was in the stands, while Huw Jones and Mark Bennett are injured.

Yet, as last Saturday showed, Taylor is a player of international pedigree, the trouble is trying to find the best spot for him.

This weekend may provide some answers. Though he impressed against Italy, Australia are going to be a totally different proposition. They will try to exploit his positional inexperience with their kicking game and he can expect an aerial bombardment with the Australian wings and Israel Folau, his opposite number in hot pursuit.

"I expect them to run quite a bit," Taylor added. "Their first-phase moves are very good, they have very talented individuals. They scored off a coupe of cross-field kicks against Fiji last weekend and they have payers like Folau, who is really good in the air.

"They’ve cut us a few times so we know how good they are in attack and how much of a threat they pose. Their forwards are great ball carriers as well, so our defence has got to be on the money.

"We need to make sure our defence is spot-on, our kick-chase is on the money and we don’t give them too many opportunities for those cross-field kicks."

He missed the last two games against Australia with injuries, but understands how much the two one-point defeats, both coming in the final minutes, hurt his colleagues.

There is a chance of revenge and he feels the team are evolving into one that can pull off the trick of turning narrow defeats into narrow wins. "We have been building really well for the last couple of years," he said. "It’s now about capitalising on games where we have been losing by two or three points. That’s something we want to do straight away.

"We have worked very hard on what we need to do. We have learned a lot about ourselves as a team and what we have to do to get in positions to win games. The experiences we’ve had in the past can help."Evening Times: