When Nathan Hines joined the Scotland coaching staff back in May he was given quite a wide remit. Officially titled “resource coach” the former lock’s role was to include bringing his expertise at the lineout, assisting forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys and working on the development of young players throughout the country.
At this World Cup, Hines has added another important string to his bow – water carrier.
In Scotland’s Pool B games the Australia-born former Gala, Edinburgh, Leinster and Clermont player has been a visible presence at the touchline, in his high-vis bib emblazoned with the word “water” dispensing nuggets of information and reassurance along with the all-important hydration.
“Hopefully I can communicate something specific or we’d just get a monkey to do it,” said Hines yesterday. “I get messages from [head coach] Vern [Cotter] and I pick up little things around the pitch that I can see and the players may have missed, or if Vern has something he wants me to say I can get to the players and say ‘what about this?’ or I may see something at the lineout.
“I’m always chipping in but obviously the leadership stuff is down to [captain] Greig [Laidlaw]. If I see stuff then or if I need to say anything just to Greig then I’ll single him out. Obviously he’s usually kicking so we get a bit of time. Sometimes in the heat of battle there are things you forget. So some of it’s down to reassurance, some of it’s technical stuff. It’s not really tactical, it’s more details of things they’ve maybe changed at their lineout or dropping people into backfield – stuff the players might not pick up on during the game.” Hines will pull the bib on again at St James’ Park this Saturday as Scotland look for the win against Samoa that will seal a place in the World Cup quarter-finals. Asked if he will be a calming influence in such a high-stakes environment, the 39-year-old laughed and said: “Have you been watching me at the side of the pitch? It takes me two days for my voice to recover.”
Hines added: “It’s about bringing energy because those guys are tired and if I see someone slowing up I can come on and give him a bit of a shout. It doesn’t make me any less emotional because I’m not playing.
“I talk to the physios about this because I’m next to them during a match and they think it’s quite comical. Sometimes I still think I’m playing, but that’s a good thing, I think. It still means a lot to me to see the boys do well and I’m just happy to be part of the group and have input into how they play. My job during the 80 minutes is to bring energy and a bit of technical nous and encouragement.
“It used to be some players who were not in the matchday squad who would do it. But it’s hard for them because they are not used to how the headsets work and so on. It’s probably easier for the coaches to have a non-player with the earpiece because they can then be a bit more critical. I also have more experience as well and might see things that someone in the 23 doesn’t. Not every team does it this way, though Neil Jenkins and Mike Catt do it for Wales and England.”
Hines sees his role as acting as a conduit between the squad and Cotter, the man he played under at Clermont. “Yes,” said Hines. “A player might not say something back to Vern or suggest something, but I would have that dialogue.”
Hines is keen to see a big cut in the error count against the Samoans this week and said: “The Springboks were supremely physical and although we tried to come back into the game and forced open the door a little bit there was an error straight after that. You can’t do all that good work and then undo it by making errors against top teams like the Springboks or Samoa, where small margins or even one action will decide games.”
Asked if the fact Samoa’s World Cup is effectively over could lead to a drop in their performance, Hines’ response was forthright: “Have you seen Samoa play? I certainly don’t think they will lack for a competitive edge. It won’t make any difference that they can’t qualify for the knockout stages. Samoa are a proud nation and although they haven’t had the results they would have wanted, what better way would there be to right the wrongs of the last three games than to come out and win against us. Anyone who says that this is a dead rubber because they can’t qualify should watch the game.
“They’re playing for a win to give the nation back some pride and we’re playing to get out of the pool stages. While it’s a different goal it doesn’t make it any less important for both teams.”