Cardiff has rarely been a happy hunting ground for Scottish rugby but it is a city that will forever hold special memories for Rory Darge. You have to go back to April 2002 to find the last time the national team emerged triumphant from the Millennium Stadium, although they did at least record an away win over Wales in Llanelli during the Covid-delayed 2020 season.

Gregor Townsend’s side, then, will return to the Welsh capital next weekend with a degree of trepidation as they look to end that 22-year hoodoo. For Darge, it means heading back to where it all began for him in his Scotland journey two years ago.

Scotland lost that day – as if it needs saying – but the 20-17 reverse only partially dented the joy at earning a first full cap at the tender age of just 21 years old. Named this week as one of two new co-captains, alongside Finn Russell, who will lead the team into the forthcoming Guinness Six Nations campaign, it is the sounds rather than sights that Darge recalls most from that seismic career moment.

Making your international debut must be a head-spinning experience for everyone but Darge just remembers stepping onto the pitch and having his senses assailed by the sheer racket inside the place.

“I remember the nerves in the build-up, but the main memory I have is getting on the pitch and not being able to hear anything,” recalls the Glasgow flanker. “It was the loudest stadium I had experienced up to that point, by far.

“At that stage of the game, it was quite close and cagey, so you were trying to hear lineout calls and they were totally drowned out by the noise of the crowd.

“At the time, I hadn’t experienced anything like it. Coming off the bench into that, it was really striking, whereas if you’re starting you’re used to it from the get-go.

“It’s a pretty cool atmosphere down there, and my family being there was massive for me. They got to come to the hotel afterwards - it was some moment. It’s what you look forward to. I will never take it for granted. Singing the anthem is always a goosebump moment, and it gives you so much motivation.

“That’s why I think the intensity is so high in Test matches because you’re just off the back of singing your national anthem, with however many thousand people singing back at you. It’s something I can’t wait to get back into.”

Townsend’s reasoning behind changing the captaincy responsibilities was because he wanted players who would be “nailed-on starters” which certainly applies to both Darge and Russell.

Only fitness concerns might keep the younger man out of a return to Cardiff. Injuries have been a constant companion throughout Darge’s career and when he limped out of the derby with Edinburgh at the end of the year, Glasgow head coach Franco Smith admitted he himself was “heartbroken”.

That suggested an ACL tear or worse, something that would have kept Darge out for the best part of the year. Instead, the diagnosis was mercifully not as severe.

“It was a weird one as I kind of thought I knew what it was right away,” reveals Darge. “I’ve done my MCL (medial collateral ligament) before but that was a complete tear. This time it’s not.

“But there was a bit of time before the scan and you’re sat there thinking ‘what could this be?’ If I had to put money on it, I would have said it was probably an MCL and not as bad as before.

“But you always have the what-ifs in the back of your head. Now I’m sort of aiming for one of the first two games. We’re back in camp today so I’ll get tested by the physios and see how my progress is then hopefully I’ll reintegrate back into running and team training.

“It’s very much seeing how the knee reacts to progressing my rehab and taking it from there.”

This has not been a great week for Jamie Ritchie, having been deposed as captain and then told he has a scrap on his hands just to get a starting jersey. Darge, though, revealed that his former Edinburgh team-mate has been nothing but supportive as he passed on the baton.

“The whole time I’ve been involved with Scotland it’s never been one man doing it all,” he added. “That’s something Jamie was really good at - delegation and bringing other people up to be leaders.

“He’s someone I’m going to lean on a lot. I got a nice message from him when the announcement was made but I was never worried it was going to be awkward.

“I’ve known Jamie for a long time and he’s a great guy, a real professional who cares about Scotland and performing well for Scotland. That’s his whole thing, so I didn’t think for a second it would be awkward.”

Meanwhile, Scotland have called up prop Elliot Millar-Mills to the squad with Will Hurd injured.

Millar-Mills, who has a Scottish mum, is hoping to follow in sister Bridget’s footsteps who has played for the Scotland women’s team.  Fly-half Adam Hastings has also dropped out with a knee injury.