It WAS hard, hot and humid, but Scotland’s players now have a real grasp of two things – first, how tough life is going to be under new coach Vern Cotter and, second, how tricky the conditions are going to be when they play their first match for him at the weekend.
Johnnie Beattie, who has the added disadvantage of having missed the end of the regular season with a shoulder injury to leave him a little rusty, admitted after the first flat-out training session in Houston that it had been an exhausting experience, even though he had an inkling of what to expect. He has the benefit of playing in France, so he knows Cotter as an opposition coach and from talking to players who have worked under the new Scotland coach.
“He will work you very, very hard, train you very, very hard. If you don’t perform, you will be out the door,” Beattie said of Cotter. “Work hard. Enjoy training, but work hard and win. This is the first time we have been together for a long time as a Scotland team. It was the first time we have done it all at full pace, there was a lot of running in the heat. Obviously it was tricky but it was good. Now we’ve got it out of the way.
“We have only had one session but, speaking to the guys who know Cotter, he is an intelligent man, provides a great environment and is a really good coach. He put Clermont in the position to win games for all those years they have been in the Top 14 contesting finals. If we can go anywhere near that with Scotland, with his structures and ideas, that will put us in good stead.”
Beattie also knows a number of players from the United States team, Scotland’s first opponents, and, as far as he is concerned, they are nowhere near the mugs that their lowly world ranking would suggest. “We know a lot of their key players who are based in Europe, so we know what to expect,” he said. “There are some very good rugby players there who are pretty well organised. A lot of the boys who play at English and French clubs are talented, and not just talented but understand playing within systems and team structures. It will be hard. People think about USA and Canada rugby from ten years ago, but it is a totally different kettle of fish.
“The rankings are there for a reason, but these teams don’t get their first-string players for a lot of international matches. If they did have them, they would be winning. This is a shot for us to play the first-string side and it is not a USA ranked 18 that we are facing. It is different, a lot tougher than the gap the rankings points would suggest.”
On a personal level, Beattie is looking forward to getting back into action after damaging a shoulder during the RBS Six Nations. Although he has been fit for almost six weeks, there have not been games to play in.
“I got back fit the week of the [French Top14] semi but it would have been too much of a risk for them to stick me in,” he said. “I have had five or six weeks of full training, conditioning, proper running so I’m excited to play my first match back.”
• Two new caps will play for Scotland 7s this weekend in the FIRA-AER Grand Prix Sevens tournament in Lyon. Boroughmuir winger Alex Cox and Melrose stand-off Richard Mill have played with the Scottish Thistles for the past two weekends in the GB7s Series and will take the next step up in the international short game, after being named in the Scotland 7s squad to compete in France.