AFTER being injured in Paris, Tommy Seymour was a frustrated spectator as Scotland lost to Wales two weeks ago. He is more than ready to make his return to the ranks today, and could well play a vital role in getting the better of Italy.
Dependable in defence, the Nashville-born winger excels when it comes to the big turnover plays, having a knack of making vital interceptions. He scored from one against Argentina last November, another against the All Blacks a week later, then ran in another try against the Tongans in the third and final Autumn Test.
It is a specialised aspect of back play that relies on a quick mind as much as it does on rapid hands, and it is one that Seymour believes should not have too much emphasis placed on it. Indeed, he would rather not accrue a reputation for interception scores at all, lest opponents start factoring it into their plays.
“I don’t want to cast myself as the guy who wants to go and try for interceptions all the time because that comes with as many risks as there are benefits, to be honest with you,” the 26-year-old said yesterday. “You get painted with that brush and defences start trying to exploit it, and I don’t want to put us into jeopardy by trying a risky manoeuvre.
“If the occasion comes and you spot something and it comes off, then great, but I’ll not be trying to create a little opportunity for myself. It’s an easy talking point because of the way the two happened in the autumn, but it’s individual circumstances at the time and there was a level of luck about that. You have to be careful about these things coming off. They were in matches side by side, but I’ll not be trying it in every game, certainly not.”
While many Scotland players of the past 15 years have suffered humiliating defeats at the hands of the Italians, Seymour’s record is a happier one: played two, won two.
But both were narrow victories, a fact he believes will help prepare him for a trying struggle today.
“I played them on my first tour. It was my second cap when Alasdair Strokosch got that try – that was last minute and a very enjoyable result,” he said of the 30-29 win in the summer of 2013, a game that was the third-place play-off in the South African Quadrangular Tournament. “I was there last year as well when Duncan Weir did that drop goal and Alex Dunbar played in those two tries.
“I’ve played a couple of times and it’s been very nail-biting on both occasions. Hopefully we don’t go as far as that this year.
“The fact these games were so close” – last year’s result in Rome was 21-20 to the Scots – “is an example of how tough they are. They are an incredibly tough team to break down.
“The previous two results shows how close these games are and how far you have to push, and how hard you have to work to get a result over them. You see their performance at Twickenham when they got three tries and you look how close the game was after 65 minutes. They’re not an easy team to score against.
“We have to perform for a full 80 minutes. It sounds a cliché, but you can’t go in half-cocked. You have to go in raring to go and do the basic things in terms of the physicality and the breakdown.”
As he watched from the sidelines with his hip injury, Seymour became convinced that Scotland were very close to winning those first two matches that ended up in defeat by seven and three points respectively. He is confident that, this afternoon, the team can bridge the gap between performing pretty well yet still losing and playing well enough to win.
“It’s about being clinical,” he insisted. “We’ve played very well in terms of our attacking rugby; we’ve shown flair and style. The boys want to get on the ball, make tackle breaks and give options.
“We’re playing a brand of rugby which everyone is enjoying and that’s showing with the attendances. This weekend is set to be a record, so we’re playing a brand which the supporters are getting on board with, which is great. We need to be clinical with the opportunities we get, as nine-tenths of the job isn’t enough – we need to get over the line.
“The main thing is that we are creating those chances, but we need to be patient and heads-up about getting those opportunities and make sure we come away with the points. It’s international rugby, so it’s small margins. But, fingers crossed, the effort we’ve put in during training will push those fine margins in our favour.”