AFTER missing the Scotland training camp earlier this month to stay with his expectant wife in France, Alasdair Strokosch might have feared he would have a lot of catching up to do when he finally met up with the squad.
He need not have worried. Having worked with assistant coach Dean Ryan at Gloucester, the 29-year-old from Paisley got up to speed very quickly.
“I knew Dean from before, and a lot of the things we’re doing are similar to what we did at Gloucester,” said Strokosch, who will wear the No 6 jersey against England at Twickenham tomorrow. “I’ve just had to put in extra time this week to catch up on anything I’ve missed.
“Dean is brilliant. Obviously, he is a tough man but he is so positive in the way you get the information across. He makes things really easy to understand. One of his big strengths is getting across what is in his head and what he wants you to do.
“He brought me to Gloucester and he was there for two years while I was there. I really enjoyed working under him.”
Ryan, who has developed a career in broadcasting since he coached at Gloucester, has joined up with Scotland only until the end of the RBS Six Nations Championship. But Strokosch is absolutely certain that, no matter the temporary nature of the Englishman’s role, his commitment will be total for every minute he is part of interim coach Scott Johnson’s team.
“He’s thorough, that’s for sure. He gets all the information he wants out.
“Because he is here for such a short time, it means there is very little pressure on him. You can see that in the way he coaches. The way he wants us to play is basic, but it’s nice and intense.
“He’s honest and he’ll tell you what he thinks. That will probably never change.”
With captain Kelly brown and Johnnie Beattie alongside Strokosch in the back row, Johnson has chosen the toughest trio available to him. But the Perpignan forward is confident that he and his colleagues can also produce a touch of finesse if required.
Strokosch said: “I’m confident that we’ve a strong back row. We have picked three big men but we have three good athletes as well.
“It will be an interesting battle, because they have good athletes as well. To be fair, it’s an area of strength in most teams now and it’s just about who comes out on top.
“It’s a very physical England team, with a big pack, a strong set piece. They have a good structure, but they also of players out wide who can attack. They have creativity there now.”
Strokosch had committed to staying with his wife and their daughter in France until their second child was born. Aaron duly arrived on 19 January, and his proud father duly flew up to Scotland just over a week later.
Strokosch knew that the decision to stay in France for as long as necessary could have had an effect on his place in the team, but he is convinced it was the right thing to do.
“I knew that the decision I made could have consequences, but I was willing to live with it. There’s more to life than rugby, and I couldn’t in good conscience leave my wife in a country where she doesn’t speak the language with no-one to look after our daughter. It wasn’t really a difficult decision to make.
“I phoned Johnno a while ago to explain what was going to happen but he kept his cards pretty close to his chest. I didn’t know I would be in the team until Monday. I was as much in the dark as anyone.”