SCOTLAND captain Kelly Brown has backed Six Nations debutant Rob Harley to add some bite to the Scottish back row as they seek to end a run of defeats against Italy on Saturday.
Harley is the only newcomer to the championship arena for Scotland this weekend, having replaced Alasdair Strokosch in the No 6 jersey, but the skipper is confident that he will not need to provide much in the way of support to the new boy.
“If he wants it I’ll speak to him and give him a bit of advice,” said Brown. “But he strikes me as the sort of guy that takes anything thrown at him in his stride, and I’m sure it will be the same on Saturday.
“Though I moved away [to Saracens] I’m still a big fan of the two Scottish teams and I would say more so Glasgow, obviously, as an ex-player, so I’ve seen Rob play. He got a shot at six and has come in and done very, very well. It’s been said that he’s a very strong boy who works incredibly hard, and I’m just looking forward to playing alongside him.”
Brown has been helped in his efforts to banish the pain of Twickenham defeat with some time with his other love, music, and yesterday he revealed a vocal bid to stir Scottish support in the lead-up to the match against Italy.
The SRU was approached by two Scotland supporters and musicians, Simon Paterson-Brown and Chris Thomson, with the idea of Brown singing their new version of Highland Cath-edral and the Scotland skipper, renowned for his singing voice, was only too happy to oblige. The new song, which also features current players Euan Murray, Matt Scott and Henry Pyrgos, alongside former internationalists such as Jim Renwick, Roger Baird and Gavin Hastings, will be publicly aired for the first time ahead of kick-off on Saturday and go on sale through Amazon, iTunes and other outlets from midnight. It will raise funds for rugby charities Hearts and Balls, the Bill McLaren Foundation and Murrayfield Centenary Fund.
Paterson-Brown grew up in Hawick, and turned out in the back row on occasions for Hawick Linden – his brother Tim captained London Scottish and won three Scotland ‘B’ caps – before turning to medicine.
He is now a surgeon at Edin-burgh’s Royal Infirmary and, in common with a campaign launched by Scottish Rugby Blog last week, he explained that he felt Murrayfield needed stirring up.
“Myself and Chris have been working on this song for the past 18 months because we felt that there wasn’t really a good song that the whole crowd could really take to, and that wasn’t anti-English. There isn’t really a lot of singing at Murrayfield, and I feel there could be.
“O Flower of Scotland is fantastic and it’s great to sing when we play England, but it’s not the same when we play Wales or Ireland or France for example. Highland Cathedral is a wonderful tune, and there have been a few lyrics written before but we wanted to create something that Murrayfield could take to its heart, that was pretty simple, easy lyrics that people could stand up and sing. It’s not meant for playing in a quiet bar, but for a big crowd to stand up and launch forth with.”
Brown agreed that the noise generated by the home crowd is a factor in a team’s performance, but accepted that victory on Saturday will come down to not what happens off the pitch and entirely on the ability of his side to better hone their skills on it. He is confident that he does not have much work to do to lift morale, as the players are determined to turn around the run of four losses, but cautions supporters against underestimating an Italian team coming to Scotland this week off the back of a second successive home win over pre-tournament favourites France.
“We know what we have to do,” he said. “Most of it’s been said by Johnno [Scott Johnson].
“We’re aware that there are three or four areas, including the tackle area, in which we were second best on Saturday. We’ve looked at those and are working hard at those, because if we don’t get these areas spot-on then it’s very hard to win an international match. They beat France two years ago as well and it just shows in international rugby among the top sides anybody can beat anybody on their day so I wouldn’t say it [Sunday’s result] was a surprise. We were aware of the magnitude before that game on Sunday and the fact that they won doesn’t change anything.
“When they have the ball we have to be solid and slow their ball down, and if we can turn it over then that’s the ideal, but it’s also the case that when we have the ball we’re in control of that, that we make the ball fast and I’m sure that if we do that we have the players to cause sides problems.
“But we’re also aware that we have a lot of pace in our back three and as a forward pack it’s up to us to make sure that we give them really good set-piece ball and when we get into the phase ball that not only do we secure the ball but also make it as fast as we can for them. I am sure that we can turn it around at the weekend.
“You’d obviously rather be winning, but I have a lot of faith in this team and we know that if we really nail a high level of performance then we can be successful. But it’s about making sure that we get the basics right not for five minutes or ten minutes, but for the full 80 minutes.”
As for whether his new song might take over as Scotland’s pre-match anthem, in the way O Flower of Scotland did in 1990, Brown was just as clear.
“This is a song that we did for the fans and it’s got absolutely nothing to do with taking over from O Flower of Scotland.”
He may appear quiet-spoken, but a steel lies within the Borderer as he bids to uncover his first win as Scotland captain.