Wing Tim Visser has welcomed the intensity of Scotland’s training sessions under new coach Vern Cotter.
The New Zealander has effectively only two training sessions before sending the team out to play the USA and according to Visser, the head coach’s response has been to go for shorter sessions but to step up the pressure on the players to deliver.
“He is really into intensity,” Visser said. “The type of training we have been doing is short and intense – really hard work but that is brilliant because, as a player, you would rather be on the training paddock for a short time and the work to be harder. That is how it is in games.
“It has been really good, we have been doing a few drills and he has given me a few personal pointers already.
“He looks at all the video stuff, as all the coaches do, and then afterwards will say something that can help me in the game, something like ‘don’t turn your back on the ball carrier when you are running away from the ruck’ or how to catch a ball better, little things like that. I like that.”
Visser is in the unusual position in this squad of making a fresh start on two fronts. Not only does he share the common bond of dealing with a new coach, but on a personal level, after a double break to his leg in October, he missed the entire season of international rugby and feels he is having to begin all over again at Test level.
“For me it is definitely a fresh start after being out for so long,” he said. “With Vern coming in, he will be looking forwards not backwards, but that is something that as players and coaches we would do anyway.
“We try to learn from our mistakes but that is it; we then try to move forward. Short-term memory is important for athletes like us; good or bad. You don’t want to remember the good stuff because you will be resting on your laurels, but at the same time you don’t want to remember the bad stuff because it will ruin your confidence. That is something I think is really important.”
It is 11 years since Scotland last played the USA, and 12 since they played their only Test in America, so none of the players have any real idea of what to expect. The only member of the party with any Test-playing experience in America is specialist skills coach Duncan Hodge, who scored two tries when Scotland won 65-23 in San Francisco in 2002.
“They have got some good rugby players and they are a very physical team,” Hodge said. “They are very physical at the breakdown, you watch their rugby and they create a high number of turnovers, more so than a lot of teams.
“We know that is coming and that we have to deal with that on Saturday. It has been a tough week for us in terms of guys arriving on three sets of flights, then training in 31 to 32 degrees and the humidity, the first time Vern has had the whole squad.
“It is a tough week but no different for [the USA], they have guys coming in from Europe too.”
Meanwhile, after losing 61-5 to South Africa on Monday, Scotland Under-20 face Samoa tomorrow in the second round of the IRB Junior World Championship at the ECO Light Stadium in Pukekohe, New Zealand with history telling them that victory is possible. Last year, in France, Scotland played Samoa twice, beating the Pacific Islanders 36-33 in the final group game in Nantes before losing 33-24 in the ninth-place play-off.
For their part, Samoa lost 48-12 to New Zealand in their opening Pool C match but the islanders will have been lifted from their performance against the host nation. Scotland Under-20 head coach, Sean Lineen, will name his side today.
The Scotland v Samoa match will be overshadowed in Pool C by the big clash between South Africa and New Zealand, a game that could determine the final outcome of the championship.
Elsewhere, defending champions England take on Australia in Pool A, while last year’s runners-up, Wales, face Ireland in Pool B.