Six Nations: Scotland's Ben White on taking two seconds to say yes and why Calcutta Cup bow was the best 10 minutes of his life

Ben White described it as the best ten minutes of his life and it’s hard to recall a more dramatic introduction to international rugby.

Stepping off the bench as a temporary replacement for Ali Price, the London Irish scrum-half applied the coup de grace as Scotland scored the opening try of Saturday’s Calcutta Cup triumph.

It was a fine finish to a brilliant move involving Stuart Hogg and Darcy Graham but, a few minutes later, White found himself back on the sidelines with his tracksuit on. Price had passed a head injury assessment and returned to the fray.

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White, a surprise inclusion in Gregor Townsend’s Six Nations squad, came on again for Price in the second half and was part of the Scottish defensive effort as the home side held on for a famous 20-17 victory.

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“It was an incredible experience, to be honest. I don’t think words can do it justice,” said the debutant. “It was absolutely amazing. With the fans and the stadium – it was electric. It was unbelievable.

“I walked off and said to one of the lads, ‘that was the best 10 minutes of my life!’ If anything, getting on like that was good as it took away the nerves and angst of maybe waiting until the last 20 minutes. Just to be thrown in at the deep end was a good thing as you just go on and do your job.”

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Just to add extra spice, White had already played for Eddie Jones’ England, turning out at Twickenham in the non-cap international against Barbarians in 2019.

Despite his earlier affiliation, the Stoke-on-Trent-born half-back said he had no hesitation in answering Townsend’s call.

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Ben White roars across the line for his first-half try in Scotland against England at BT Murrayfiel. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

“The second I got that phone call from Gregor, you know he was like you can have 24-48 hours to think about it, I said I don’t need more than two seconds mate, yes please!

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“It is an absolute honour to play for Scotland so I didn’t have to think about it at all,” he said. “To play for Scotland is a dream come true and it has been an incredible experience for me.”

The 23-year-old qualifies through his late grandfather, James White, from Edinburgh and the player revealed that he was part of the Scottish Exiles system as a teenager. He then got lured into the England set-up and actually played against Scotland in the Under-20 Six Nations international at Myreside in 2018.

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He was on the losing side that evening but won the big one at the weekend, lifting the Calcutta Cup at Murrayfield after captain Stuart Hogg gave him the honour as a debutant.

Ben White finished off a superb move after great footwork from Darcy Graham, right. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
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“It’s meant everything to me,” he said. “My friends and family were over the moon and incredibly proud like myself. The warmth from the Scottish fans has been incredible and it’s something that I appreciate. It meant so much to pull on that jersey but also to get some of the messages from fans. It’s been brilliant and the support has been incredible.

“When I was younger, under 14s and 15s, I did Scottish Exiles with Rob Brierley down at Mount St Mary’s [near Sheffield] so I’ve always known I’ve had that Scottish connection and wanted to try and go down that route.

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“Gregor had been in touch with me over the last six months and had Zoom calls so I knew it was an option and that they were watching me. That was incredibly exciting and an honour just to get a call from Gregor to even potentially be involved. And to then get the call to say I’d be in the squad – I couldn’t quite believe it. It was amazing. I do have to pinch myself sometimes. I’m very proud to be here.

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Ben White gets his hands on the Calcutta Cup at full-time. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

“I wish my grandpa could have still been alive to see it I think he would have been honestly ecstatic, I don’t think he would quite believe it to be honest!

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“He was born in Scotland and pretty much all my family history was in Scotland. My granddad then got a job in England as a university lecturer which is when my family moved down south.

“I was born in England and spent most of my life down there. But my old man made sure that I came up every so often and went round Edinburgh and around Aviemore and other places. I love being up here. It’s been an amazing experience.”

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White’s mum, dad and brother were at Murrayfield on Saturday along with the scrum-half’s girlfriend, the tennis player Jodie Burrage.

Burrage made her Wimbledon bow last year and White says it helps having someone who understands the pressures of professional sport.

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“Jodie has been amazing at supporting me through things and obviously I try to do my best for her as well,” added the player, who moved from Leicester Tigers to London Irish last summer.

Ben White's girlfriend Jodie Burrage made her Wimbledon debut last year. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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“It is great to have us both doing what we love and having the ability to talk to each other about our experiences and about how to deal with pressures and training loads and stuff and just to talk through different situations and get her thoughts and my thoughts is brilliant.”

White is now looking forward to this weekend’s match against Wales in Cardiff although he can be forgiven for basking in the glory of his debut try just a little longer.

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“I just knew that when I passed it to Hoggy that we might be on here and then Darcy cut a class line and I was just sprinting as fast as I could to make sure that I was with him,” he recounted.

“You can run that line 50 times a year and don’t get it, but luckily Darcy’s footwork was amazing and he put the pass on the money.

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“The feeling… I mean words can’t describe it or do it justice, it was amazing.”

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