SCOTLAND’S rugby players expect Scott Johnson to retain a coaching role with the national side when he moves into his permanent role of director of rugby, despite the fact he has overseen a series of wounding results as head coach.
On Saturday, Scotland endured their most embarrassing defeat in the RBS Six Nations, a seven-try, 51-3 defeat to Wales.
That left them with an overall points concession of 138 for the championship, compared with a modest aggregate of 47 of their own – the lowest of the six competing nations.
Johnson agreed to take over the team temporarily after Andy Robinson quit in 2012, but was asked to stay in charge for another year when new coach Vern Cotter failed to secure release from his club contract with Clermont Auvergne.
Johnson had by then agreed to take over as SRU director of rugby, a position he has held alongside that of Scotland coach. However, he is keen to remain part of Cotter’s management team and continue in both roles for this summer’s tour and through to the World Cup, which would effectively put Cotter in a situation where he is issuing instructions to the man he reports to. Greig Laidlaw, who has captained Scotland underneath Johnson and took over as skipper in Saturday’s humbling in Cardiff after Kelly Brown suffered an early head injury, insisted that the players wanted Johnson to stay on the coaching staff.
Laidlaw said: “The players definitely like Scott and he has brought a different edge to us in the way we play and train, and some of the performances we’ve put in while he’s been in charge.
“As a group of players we’re disappointed to almost let him go [as head coach] with this one [performance against Wales]. We’re gutted at how this turned out and we have to look forward now to the summer tour, but Johnno will still be involved in that even with the crossover of Vern coming, and we have to look forward and pick it up from there.”
Johnson finishes with a record of five Test wins in 16 and this tournament with statistics that read one win, snatched in the dying seconds against Italy, four tries scored and 15 conceded, and the worst discipline record of all six teams.
In blooding 16 new caps, Johnson said from the start this his year at the helm would be more about developing a stronger squad to help Scotland’s bid to be competitive and consistent leading into the 2015 World Cup, where the realistic target is to return to the quarter-finals after the 2011 pool exit, but the SRU have set the aim of a trophy win.
“There’s no doubt I’d have liked to have finished it better,” he acknowledged.
“I’m a bit sore. I’ll worry about that [championship review] later.
“It was a difficult game for them [Scotland players]. You look for your major callers and the thrust, and we lost Hoggy [Stuart Hogg, who was sent off], as a strike-runner as well. Players are looking around for a bit of spark and he provides that, so it [red card] was a double blow.
“We saw things against Wales that they need to improve on under pressure, but when some of them haven’t played much at this level and are still learning, and you throw a different situation at them, then they’re going to make mistakes, and they did.”