Matt Taylor felt like he was re-living something of a nightmare on Saturday as he once again watched his defensive systems ripped apart by the unrated Samoans, but he knows from that previous experience that it could yet work in Scotland’s favour in their next match.
The last time they had met the South Sea Islanders it was an even more nerve-racking affair with qualification for the World Cup quarter-finals on the line in a match the Scots eventually edged out 36-33. However that was immediately followed by Scotland’s best competitive performance this side of the Millennium when they came within eight minutes of knocking Australia’s Wallabies out of the tournament and they must raise their game similarly this week as they prepare to host the best in their business.
“I hope so,” said Taylor, when asked whether inspiration might be drawn from the way things were turned around in that tournament. “We need to. Listen, teams play in different ways… the All Blacks will challenge in different areas form Samoa and Samoa challenged us in different ways that New Zealand mightn’t. It was the first time together for a long time, getting us all on the same page, making sure we front up in the right areas.”
Describing the encounter as “very nearly a carbon copy of what happened in the World Cup,” he noted that in some senses the discomfort generated on Saturday will help him in his work this week.
“People probably don’t give Samoa the credit in terms of the individual brilliance and how powerful athletes they are,” he observed.“Certainly I would rather be going into this game a wee bit worried rather than be over-confident, though, put it that way. After the performance on the weekend from a defensive point of view, we all know that we’ve got to lift the intensity and be a lot better than we were, because it’s not good enough, particularly at home and I personally was very disappointed, as were the players. We’ve talked about that and a few of the leaders spoke about it today in the forwards meeting, so hopefully we’ll get a reaction.”
He accepted that the Scotland players might have been among those who failed to give the Samoans the respect they deserved, particularly once they had established what looked a decisive lead at 32-10 ahead early in the second half.
“I certainly wasn’t complacent because I was there in the World Cup, so I was very worried about playing a team when I knew what they were capable of doing, but when the score was around 30 to 10 we could have maybe subconsciously just relaxed just slightly and you can’t switch off in Test rugby.” Taylor observed.
“If you switch off a team will take the opportunities and that’s what Samoa did. We know that in both attack and defence we’ve got to do a lot of improving. It was good that we scored that many points against them, but we know New Zealand is a hell of a lot better defensive team as well. So we’re excited. You don’t often in your sporting career get the chance to play against the best and when you do you want to do everything you can to knock them over, so that’s what we’ll be attempting to do.”
As philosophical as that sounded Taylor went on to admit to taking the failings in his specialist area personally.
“I take a lot of pride in what I do, representing Scotland,” he said. “I said to the players today that when people come to the games to watch Scotland play at home they see a lot of themselves in the players and shipping five tries at home isn’t good enough. Unfortunately sometimes my family cops the brunt of the disappointment, but we’ve got another game this week. We’ll review the weekend and then focus everything on New Zealand going forward.”
The coaches’ task has been further complicated by not only the expected confirmation that tighthead prop Willem Nel has been ruled out of the remaining autumn Tests as a result of a broken arm, but the revelation that Tim Swinson, Saturday’s unsung hero who forced the turnover that let Scotland end the match, will also miss them as a result of a hand injury. Swinson’s fellow Glasgow Warrior Rob Harley has also been forced out of the squad because of a knee injury, but their former clubmate Jon Welsh, who is now at Newcastle Falcons, has been called in to replace Nel. There was better news of yet another of the Glasgow contingent, with winger Tommy Seymour expected to recover from the toe injury he suffered having undergone an MRI scan which indicated no serious damage.
Noting that Welsh’s arrival in camp had been well received, meanwhile Taylor rightly pointed out that there was nothing unusual in having to deal with injury problems in an international rugby camp.
“Whenever you lose a number of players who are front-line players it’s a challenge, but it’s an opportunity as well and that’s how we’re looking at it,” he said. “Everyone has injuries, so we’re not going to use injuries as an excuse. The next person’s up and you’re representing your country, so the people who are chosen will do the best they’re capable of doing and they’re representing their country so we expect them to do well.”
Source : HeraldScotland