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Near enough is not good enough

Sun, 17 Mar 2013 09:59
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We're under no illusions where we are
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Scotland must progress from being a side that gets close to beating top teams into becoming actual winners, their interim coach Scott Johnson insisted.

The 50-year-old Australian - who stepped up from assistant coach after Andy Robinson left the post following a humiliating defeat by Tonga in November last year - was speaking after France had beaten his side 23-16 in their final Six Nations game at the Stade de France on Saturday.

The result left Scotland third in the table with four points, after wins over Italy and Ireland. while despite the win France finished with their first wooden spoon since 1999 and only their fourth since the end of World War II.

Johnson, who had a brief stint as Wales coach in 2006 and was an assistant coach in the Australian campaign at the 2007 World Cup, didn't pretend that his side could have beaten the French but said they hadn't helped their cause.

"We have to get rid of the mentality that near enough is good enough," said Johnson.

"We've got to learn the habit of putting sides to bed.

"There's been progress but like all things it has taken steps forward in some areas, steps backward in others. It never comes as quickly as you like it to.

"We're under no illusions where we are. The game of rugby is constantly changing as it always does and you have to take note of that and move with it."

Johnson, who also had a three-year spell coaching Welsh provincial side Ospreys, said one area where clear progress had been made was in defence no more so than against the French.

The Scots kept the French at bay on several occasions, most notably during an eight-minute period in the first-half where they were camped deep inside the Scottish 22 but eventually the hosts allowed their frustration get the better of them and conceded a penalty allowing the Scots to clear.

"I was really, really proud of our defence, it was superb," crowed Johnson.

"However, the flip side of the coin regarding our play was our kick returns were not good and that allowed the French to put us under pressure time and again.

"I said at the beginning of the tournament that I didn't want to have to come to the table after a match and have to defend the indefendable.....if that is a real word....but I haven't had to do that.

"They have given 100 percent and I salute their resolve."

Scotland captain Kelly Brown said a number of dropped catches by his side were not good enough despite the rain causing the ball to become slippery.

"Coming from Scotland we're not exactly foreigners to wet conditions and handling wet balls," he said.

Johnson said he couldn't comment on France coach Philippe Saint-Andre's criticism of the referee Nigel Owens and his touch judges for not seeing what he said was clear obstruction of centre Gael Fickou prior to the build-up of Scotland's only try, late in the game by Tim Visser.

"I think I was working on something else at the time," he said.

"However, I saw a lot of things out there this evening that were against the rules of rugby and weren't called in our favour. I won't be chanting from the rooftops about them all the same.

"If we got a bit of luck (with the try) then I welcome it."

Despite his relatively upbeat summary of the campaign, Johnson was coy about whether he would like the job fulltime.

"Regarding my future I will sit down with the bosses after the dust has settled and have a good chat about it."

AFP

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