HE HAS been called many things and Scott Johnson added “tough b*****d” this week, but Dean Ryan could have a significant impact on the Scotland squad in the forthcoming RBS Six Nations according to Glasgow skipper Alastair Kellock.
Former England back row and Gloucester coach Ryan accepted Johnson’s invitation to drill the Scottish pack in the Six Nations but made it clear that he would then return to his TV analysis role. But, sporting navy blue at his first training camp this week, he told the Scotland players he was committed to helping them turn around a series of disappointing campaigns, and Kellock has been impressed.
“He’s great,” said the Glasgow skipper. “A spade is a spade with Dean but what I’ve found really good is that, if it’s positive, then he’ll tell you. He’ll say ‘that was top-class’ and if it’s negative you’re not left wondering.
“It makes our jobs easier because everything is very clear in terms of what he’s after. That’s the key – he makes things clear.
“He’s got a different way of putting things across at times. He uses a whiteboard, a pen and paper, shows you what he wants and you then go out and put it into practise. Then we come back and analyse it, which is a great way to work because you know straight away if you’ve nailed it.
“We’ve been working closely with Dean on the contact area, and worked with [skills coach] Stevie Scott on lineouts and what we’re looking to do there, and they’re both good. But you only need to speak to Dean for five minutes to know that he has an incredible knowledge of the game, so I’m trying to tap into that and learn as much as I can.”
Kellock is desperate to get back into the Scotland team after former coach Andy Robinson preferred the bulk of Jim Hamilton in the scrum to Kellock’s lineout prowess.
The Bishopbriggs man is 6ft 8in tall but not built like a tank, yet has built himself into a not-insignificant 18st 7lbs and underlined on Saturday against Northampton his growing ability to carry ball and provide an effective lead for his team.
Kellock is arguably the best captain Scotland have at their disposal, if selected, and, despite spearheading a record Glasgow contingent of 19 in the national squad, he has been quick to try to eradicate any lingering doubt from the poor recent club form of the smaller band of Edinburgh players.
“I’ve come in on the back of bad results and poor seasons in the past but what you have to do is narrow your focus and concentrate on playing well yourself. First and foremost you’re going for selection and the guys coming in are only there because they’re extremely talented.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re coming from a club that’s winning or a club that’s losing, you’re still a good enough player to be selected for Scotland.
“It’s great to have so many Glasgow players involved because it shows the good work we’ve done in the past few seasons. You look at guys now in the Scotland squad and many joined us two, three or four years ago. They battled their way into the Glasgow team, worked incredibly hard and, because of their performances for Glasgow, they have now been picked in the Scotland squad and they are keen to show what they can do.
“But, at no stage with Scotland are you guaranteed a place. I’m really enjoying my rugby right now, and enjoying working with Dean and Johnno, a new team and new ideas, and learning from them. I’m playing well but I’m playing in a winning team, which makes it easy, and the Glasgow boys will take positives from how we’ve been going but this is a different squad, different mix and with a different focus.”
So, what would represent success for the squad as they head to Twickenham as firm underdogs?
“We’ll beat England and then take it from there,” stated Kellock. “The thing with the Six Nations is that, if you get too carried away looking at what you want at the end, you don’t get what you need at the beginning.”