THERE seems to be a pattern developing on Gregor Townsend's summer tours. An inspiring performance against the strongest opponent, a solid one against the weakest and a physical no-show against the one in the middle.

It was the case last year when they beat Italy in Singapore and Australia in Sydney but could not handle Fiji's physicality in Suva. So it was deja vu again on this tour when 40-plus point wins in Canada and Argentina were undermined by the way they were bullied against the USA.

So, just as the first and last matches moved players up the rankings as Gregor Townsend continues to compile his squad for the next World Cup, the middle one had the opposite effect, particularly when it came to the forwards who failed to cope with the aggression the Americans brought to the game.

It must also be a source of some concern for Glasgow Warriors as well. In the two games where the forwards got on top, the core of the pack came from Edinburgh; in the game where they were subdued, it came from Glasgow. There is a lesson there for Dave Rennie, the Warriors' coach.

One winner was George Horne, who cemented his breakthrough season at club level when he was one of the few positives to emerge from the mauling in Houston. He then capped that with a starring role in the destruction of Argentina, bringing his try tally for the season to 12 from 19 games.

His half-back partner Adam Hastings had a more uncomfortable time against America but when he was given some decent front-foot ball against Argentina sparkled in the Resistencia rain. There are things he has to work on, particularly his tactical kicking, but he has the raw ingredients of a player who can challenge Finn Russell for the shirt.

That pair were the highlights from the six players to be capped on tour – James Lang looked good against Canada before being forced off with a head knock and was then restricted to the final quarter against the Pumas. It was a similar story for Jamie Ritchie at flanker. Townsend enthused about Lewis Carmichael's debut off the bench in Canada but then replaced him during the USA match.

It was worse for 19-year-old Matt Fagerson, who became the youngest forward to start a game in nearly 70 years when he took the field in Houston. When he made the mistake for what turned out to be the winning try for the opposition, though, he was unceremoniously replaced. He was one of only two fit players sent home a couple of days later when the squad was pruned.

Would he have been better with the Under-20s in France? Almost certainly. He has a place in the record books but also some painful wounds to recover from.

The other big task of the tour was to show Townsend the versatility of his squad, with players being asked to play outside their comfort zone, none more so than Fraser Brown, a hooker by trade, who made his first start at flanker in the final game despite a nightmare of a build-up with a back spasm and an overnight fever disrupting his preparations.

"He [Townsend] phoned me before the tour squad was announced and said that when we were away, to make sure I was on top of both roles," Brown said. "It’s something I'm comfortable doing. I’ve done it a couple of times for Glasgow, and now a couple of times with Scotland too. For me, the two positions are really similar, I enjoy them both.

"We had some great guys missing from this tour so it’s nice for me to be able to get on the pitch and contribute in any way I can. We’ve got a really multi-talented squad. You talk about it across the backline, guys who can play 10, 12, 15, wingers who can go to centre or vice versa.

"When you say it in the forward pack, unless it’s a six who can go to eight, or a second row who can go to the back row, people look at you a bit funny.

"The way the game’s going now, tempo in the game and skillsets are similar across positions. Everyone has got to be able to catch and pass, get over ball and be mobile around the pitch. It’s good to be able to have those options in our squad and have guys who are comfortable going in and out of different roles."

Add that he managed to come away without any obvious cuts or bruises a couple of weeks before his wedding and he could count it as a thoroughly satisfactory afternoon's work.

"We spoke all week about our physicality and intensity, not just around the forwards but in everything – breakdown, our running lines, our defence. We got through a couple of defensive sets in those first 20 minutes where the intensity, the line speed and the grittiness we had were brilliant and that set the tone," he added.