Scotland ‘won’t rest until ready for All Blacks’

Jonny Gray touches down for Scotland against Argentina. Picture: SNS
Jonny Gray touches down for Scotland against Argentina. Picture: SNS
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Jonny Gray climbed down from the emotional high of scoring his first try for his country after taking to the pitch at Murrayfield alongside his big brother to acknowledge that Scotland will have to improve if they are to challenge the might of the All Blacks on Saturday.

Father, mother and sister were in the stand to see the sibling strikeforce touch down tries to the right and then to the left of the posts to help see off Argentina, but family celebrations now come second to preparations to face New Zealand.

“The players were delighted to get the win today against such a strong Argentine side,” Jonny said. “All week we spoke about what it means to play for your country, to play for the thistle and to play for each other. I think we demonstrated that and, of course, it was a very special occasion for me to play on the same pitch as my brother. I find it hard to explain and put into words. It is something I’ll never forget, a very special day.

“Now we have to look forward and look at the improvements we have to make. We know it is going to be a tough challenge against the best team in the world and we are not going to rest until we are ready for them.”

Jonny admitted there was some chat in the dressing room about the way Argentina scored two tries without reply in the last ten minutes to narrow the score. “At half-time, we agreed we had to go out and play like we did in the first half and not take the foot off. At times we did and at other times we didn’t. These are the things we need to work on and fix so that we do improve before our next game.”

Saturday was also an emotional high for Mark Bennett, Jonny Gray’s Glasgow team-mate, who made his international debut at outside centre with his family watching from the stand. It might have been a scoring debut, too, when Jonny made a midfield break but just failed to get the pass away to Bennett who had a clear route to the line in front of him.

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“It was one that Jonny probably should have given,” said Bennett, who learned his rugby at Cumnock in Ayrshire. “I’ve been giving him a hard time about it, winding him up about it. These things happen. It was a two-on-one that we should have executed but we made a lot of good line breaks and the most important thing is that we converted a lot of them.”

Both Bennett and Gray agree that a search for a distinctive “Scottish way of playing” is the way ahead and that improvements are necessary if Scotland are to have any real chance against the reigning world champions.

“I would think the result is a statement of intent. To score 41 points in any game is great, never mind an international,” Bennett said. “We were disappointed to concede so many but we will try to improve on that. I think we need to carry on like this. The All Blacks are obviously a top-quality side who got a good result against England.

“They’ll be tough to beat. If we go out and try to contain them, we’re just playing into their hands. We need to go out and pick how we want to play against them and execute it. I would think it would be similar to how we played against Argentina. We scored 41 points. Why would you change it? There were quite a few individual errors. I dropped my first touch of the ball, which wasn’t ideal. But we can improve on those things.

“We’re bringing back that fire that was maybe slightly lacking before. Vern [Cotter] has fuelled that, bringing in his style and trying to find the Scottish way of playing. It’s been really, really positive, the past week and a bit. We’ve all really bought into this way of playing. It’s a typically Scottish style – take them on and get them away. It’s exactly what we want to be doing.

“I think it’s the start of something. Winning so big is a great start – and it could have been more if we were more clinical. In the squad, there has been a sort of realisation that we were going away from the Scottish way. We’ve tried to bring that back, looking at our roots and the heritage of our game.”

Winger Tommy Seymour, meanwhile, believes the win proves that Scotland have turned a corner following this year’s dismal RBS Six Nations.

“There is a great vibe around the place,” said the Glasgow back. “That’s not to say there wasn’t one last year but there was a couple of results then that we were disappointed with.

“Greig Laidlaw said a very key line in the dressing room before the game about drawing a line and moving past stuff that has happened.

“It’s a huge year for us with the World Cup coming up and we just need to go out and focus on playing consistently and the type of rugby we want to produce. Saturday was one foot in the right direction.”

Argentina’s two late tries also irked Seymour, and he knows that Scotland will not get away with the same kind of sloppiness against New Zealand.

He said: “We scored 41 points out there, which is wonderful. But the reality is our opponents scored 31, so it was only a ten-point margin.

“It was great to get points on the board but we can’t afford to make the mistakes we did against Argentina when the All Blacks come here.”

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