GREIG Laidlaw, who kicked all of Scotland’s points in their dramatic 12-8 win over Ireland at Murrayfield on Sunday, believes interim coach Scott Johnson should be given the job permanently after turning his side into genuine contenders for the RBS Six Nations Championship.
Johnson was handed the job on an interim basis by the SRU following Andy Robinson’s resignation in wake of a dismal autumn Test series, which culminated in a morale-sapping defeat by Tonga at Pittodrie. The Australian’s reign started with a Six Nations defeat by England at Twickenham, but he has now led Scotland to their first back-to-back wins in the championship since 2001.
With Wales next up at Murrayfield and a concluding match against France in Paris, Scotland can still dream of gaining an unlikely Six Nations crown, although England clearly remain in the driving seat. And scrum-half Laidlaw, who successfully kicked four penalties against the Irish, insists Johnson is worthy of the job now.
“I think he does deserve the job,” Laidlaw told BBC Scotland last night. “A lot of credit should go to him and the coaching team. They are striking a good balance between training and a bit of down time off the field.”
Johnson’s plans for the Wales game received a further boost yesterday when it emerged that Ross Ford, who has had stitches inserted in a facial wound, should be fit for the match on 7 March. Other than Ford, Scotland’s team doctor James Robson reported the squad to be in “rude health”, and that should allow Johnson and his coaching team the chance for some smooth preparations on the training ground.
Laidlaw added: “Training has been really sharp. That’s the main reason why we are producing better performances.
“The boys are extremely happy coming away with a result from yesterday. Between that and the Italy game, it gives us two wins and puts us in a strong position, but we are not getting carried away. There is a lot of room for improvement, especially on the back of yesterday’s performance, because we hardly touched the ball. Credit to our defence but we don’t want to be hanging on like that in every Test match. We’ll go away and work on our attack patterns and holding on to the ball and trying to put some pressure on the opposition.”
Scotland are two points behind England, and on the same four-point tally as Wales, and Laidlaw believes a victory over Rob Howley’s side will heighten belief that the Scots can claim their first crown since the championship was expanded from five teams to six. “As a group of players we believe we can win it but it’s one game at a time,” he said. “England are playing well. They need to go to Wales on the last weekend. If we do our job right we’ll give ourselves every chance. We still need to get past Wales. That will be a very tough Test at Murrayfield, then we have one of the toughest Tests after that, in Paris.”
• Edinburgh centre Nick De Luca will appear before an independent RaboDirect PRO12 disciplinary committee in Dublin tomorrow following the red card issued by the referee for an alleged dangerous tackle during Friday’s RaboDirect Pro12 defeat to Ospreys in Swansea.