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Six Nations: Johnson welcomes ‘hot house’ test

Scotland interim coach Scott Johnson. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Scotland interim coach Scott Johnson. Picture: Ian Rutherford

SCOTT Johnson admits he is relishing an opportunity of seeing his players tested in the Millennium Stadium “hot house” on Saturday.

Scotland have not triumphed at one of world sport’s most celebrated venues since 2002, when hooker Gordon Bulloch scored two tries that underpinned a 27-22 success.

But they have arrived in Cardiff following a much-improved second phase of this season’s RBS 6 Nations campaign, responding to comprehensive defeats against Ireland and England by beating Italy and leading France until a minute from time.

Former Wales caretaker boss Johnson will move from being interim head coach to the Scottish Rugby Union’s director of rugby this summer, with New Zealander Vern Cotter taking over as team boss.

And a win against Wales would be a dream way to hand over the reins, even if the fallen Six Nations champions are clear favourites despite a campaign that has seen them claim just two victories and dashed all hope of them retaining silverware.

“It (Millennium Stadium) is a fantastic place, one of the world’s best. I am really looking frward to it,” Johnson told reporters at pitchside on Friday.

“We want a good show. It goes without saying you would love to win, but if we get a win and we win ugly we will acknowledge that we didn’t play well.

“Last week (against France) I thought we were the better team and we didn’t get the win. It happens. We want a good performance, and to be fair, I think we need one to win.

“It is a unique experience. They love their rugby down here, they are passionate people, and it is a great thing to be able to say you’ve done.

“It’s a great place. There are some great memories, and it is nice to be back.”

Wales boss Warren Gatland applauded the Scots earlier this week for wanting the stadium roof closed on Saturday, and he fully expects them to play in a positive fashion.

“We wanted the roof shut,” Johnson said.

“It was built for the people, it was built so that people could see a performance and rugby showcased in the best light it could possibly have.

“That is what I stand for, and that’s what I want these players to learn and be able to say they have done that. We are going to have a look at how they react in certain conditions, because this is a hot house. That’s the beauty of it.

“It can work in your favour, it can go against you. We are going to find out about a few players, and that’s a good thing.”

Johnson, meanwhile, believes Wales remain a highly-dangerous outfit despite a Six Nations campaign that could see them finish outside the top three.

“Wales will be disappointed with the results, but they haven’t been far off either,” he added.

“Twickenham and Ireland are hard places to go and win - they are not easy places - and this tournament is so tight. Their form is not as bad as everyone keeps saying it is.

“They are a great rugby side with a great tradition. They are the champions and they are hurting.

“I think they are a wonderful rugby side, and over the last five or six years they have done wonderfully well. Not too many have come here and won.

“It’s a Test match to show your wares. It is an important game. There is no such thing as a dead rubber, not at all.”

And reflecting on Scotland’s Six Nations season so far, Johnson said: “Going back to the first half against Ireland, I thought it was superb.

“We played most of the rugby, but we didn’t get across the line. We started the game well, and if we had got points there it could have been a totally different story, but that is ‘ifs and whats’.

“I think we are getting better. There is a lot of good in this team. The win didn’t come last week on the back of a really good performance, and there are growing pains as you go along.

“We are just after a bit of consistency. If we get a bit more consistency, we are in the game.”

 

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