Chris Cusiter has no fears about leading out Scotland for the first time this weekend, insisting being on the bench is as nerve-wracking as it gets.
The scrum-half will captain his country against Fiji on Saturday at Murrayfield after winning his battle for the armband and a place in the team with joint skipper and rival for his position, Mike Blair.
Unlike Blair, who has led Scotland for the past year and a half, Cusiter’s experience in the role at Test level is limited to replacing him during last season’s RBS 6 Nations game against Wales.
Coming off the bench has been the story of Cusiter’s Test career for the past two years, with Blair’s stranglehold on the armband guaranteeing his own place in the team.
The 27-year-old said: “To be honest, being on the bench is probably more nerve-wracking than starting a game because you don’t know when you’re going to be on, you don’t know how long you’re going to get.
“And, ultimately, if you don’t get on or you get a very short period of time, it can be very frustrating.
“It’s not the end of the world being on the bench; it’s still an honour to be in the Scotland squad. But all the players want to start the games and I’m no different.”
That is something Cusiter has not done since the World Cup, with his last 10 appearances all coming as a replacement.
So it was perhaps no surprise that he appeared happier to be a starter than a skipper today.
Asked if leading out Scotland would be the proudest moment of his career, the Glasgow star said: “Possibly, I hadn’t thought of it like that.
“It’s certainly one of the biggest moments of my rugby career to date.
“I’ve been around a few years but captaining Scotland is such a huge honour that it’s going to be emotional and I’m pretty excited about it.”
Cusiter and Blair, who have grown accustomed to competing for their half-back spot, have been at pains to present a united front since the captaincy announcement, a theme which continued today.
Cusiter said: “We’ve known each other for a good seven years now and we’ve been rivals. But when we get off the training pitch, or the playing pitch, we get on. It’s a friendly rivalry and he’s a good guy.”
Cusiter is not without captaincy experience, having skippered the A side to the IRB Nations Cup in Romania this summer.
Former Edinburgh boss Andy Robinson led that tour shortly after being appointed head coach and Cusiter believes the trip was key to his own promotion.
“I think it was because I didn’t know Andy so well before that and he’d coached Mike at Edinburgh for a couple of years before that,” said Cusiter, who spent two years in France with Perpignan following the demise of the Borders.
"To go on that tour was a great opportunity to get to know Andy and for him to see what I’m about and how I can play. I think it definitely had a positive impact on the future and the November Tests.”