Andy Robinson ducked yesterday’s noon press conference and instead the attack coach Scott Johnson went on the offensive. In a week that had been dominated by insults from a Kiwi journalist, it was a canny move since the voluble Aussie is best-known for referring to New Zealand as “a poxy little island in the Pacific” while he was assistant coach to Wales.
“I wasn’t misquoted, I just got it slightly wrong – and I do apologise for that,” said Johnson when challenged at the time. “I actually said in the quote ‘it’s a poxy little island in the Pacific’. So I do apologise to all New Zealanders, when in fact it’s two islands.”
It’s the sort of stuff ’em attitude that the Scots need to learn since all too often they appear to have lost against the world No.1 side long before they take to the field.
Under Robinson, Scotland have an astonishing 75 per cent success rate against the three Southern Hemisphere giants after beating Australia twice and the Springboks once. Only against New Zealand have Scotland failed so comprehensively, so is it a mental issue?
“I don’t think it’s a mental issue,” said Johnson yesterday. “It works both ways a little bit. Sometimes you come up against an opposition that’s red hot. The last time New Zealand were here they had a boy who really made his mark on the world stage in SBW [Sonny Bill Williams]. He was outstanding.
“That last [Kiwi] victory could have happened against anyone, you only have to look at some of the games in the Championship this year. New Zealand have had some good wins and if they get their part right they can do some damage. So it’s important that we don’t give them the free will to play as they like.”
The attack expert confirmed that the over-riding message from the coaches to the players in the run-up to this game is that the All Blacks are fallible like everyone else.
“They are only human. We are respectful of what they are, their last 12 months has been exemplary but at the end of the day they’ve got two legs and two arms just like we have. The pitch doesn’t grow when they’ve got the ball.
“They are a wonderful, proud rugby nation and no one can deny that. They have done wonderfully well.
“But take a look at the World Cup when the French did really well. Ireland did well in periods of their recent series. They have a great rugby tradition but it’s only 15 guys on the pitch.”