Scotland

Johnson: 'Scotland won't be dull'

Fri, 25 Jan 2013 09:24
Kelly-brown-and-scott-johns Six-nations-launch-2013 Kellybrownsixnations
Come game time we may not be a poor little boy
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No one, not even Scott Johnson himself, knows for certain how long his time in charge of Scotland will last.

But if his adopted side play as entertaining a game as the one their Australian "interim" coach talks, whatever happens it won't be dull.

Professional rugby has not been kind to Scotland, with the Test side now selected from just two home-based 'pro teams' in Edinburgh - who lost all six of their European Cup pool matches this season - and Glasgow, along with a sprinkling of overseas-based players.

Despite occasional highlights elsewhere, such as last year's win away to Australia, Scotland's recent Six Nations record is dire with 12 defeats in their last 15 Championship matches.

However, it was the embarrassing, error-strewn 21-15 loss to Tonga in Aberdeen in November that prompted former Scotland coach Andy Robinson's resignation and Johnson's appointment as the Englishman's caretaker successor.

Scotland finished with the wooden spoon in last season's Six Nations and face a daunting start to this year's Championship, against England at Twickenham - a ground where they haven't won since 1983.

Add in the fact that England go into the Calcutta Cup clash on a back of their hugely impressive 38-21 win over world champions New Zealand at Twickenham in December and it is easy to see why even loyal fans give little for Scotland's chances come next week's edition of rugby's oldest international fixture.

However, a typically bullish Johnson insisted: "We are the poor little boys on the block and we are happy to go in as the poor little boys on the block.

"But rest assured, come game time we may not be a poor little boy," Johnson, who previously had a spell as caretaker Wales coach, added.

"Despite what people think, we are going to turn up to this game - we aren't going to cancel it. We are coming. We are keen to go."

Johnson signalled his determination to make a fresh start by including 10 uncapped players in his initial 35-man tournament squad, including former Crusaders back Sean Maitland.

The 24-year-old New Zealand-born wing has scored one try in five starts for Glasgow since making his debut in December and will become the latest 'kilted Kiwi' to represent Scotland should he make his Test bow at Twickenham.

His rapid promotion has caused some anxiety among Scottish rugby traditionalists but, given the country's small playing base, Johnson can hardly be blamed for making use of international eligibility rules.

In some seasons, a win over England has tended to obscure deep-rooted problems within the Scottish game but right now a Twickenham victory would be of immense value, a point not lost on lock Al Kellock.

"They are all special games but to win one down there would put you in among the legends of Scottish rugby," Kellock said.

And it would also be quite an achievement for Dean Ryan, the ex-England lock and No 8 drafted in by Johnson as a consultant forwards coach.

"Scott hasn't changed much," said Glasgow's Kellock. "Rugby is rugby after all. But he has got his own ideas and Dean Ryan has also come in with a few different things as well."

Player to watch

Tim Visser: Scotland's very own 'Flying Dutchman', the Zeewolde-born wing already has four tries in five Tests for his adopted country - including two against the mighty All Blacks, albeit in a Murrayfield defeat in November. If Scotland can get the ball to him in space and reduce their error count, they could yet upset the form book.

AFP

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