Six Nations: Allan Jacobsen not bitter over disallowed tries in Rome
ALLAN Jacobsen has been playing for Scotland too long to carry grudges and so he settled into the squad’s Rome hotel yesterday looking forward to tomorrow afternoon rather than back at the game two years ago that should have broken his international try-scoring duck.
If anyone was to contemplate writing a book on ‘101 ways to threaten but not score a try’ Scottish players could rake in a few quid as consultants. But, when Jacobsen does reflect on the 16-12 defeat in the Italian capital two years ago, the frustration that followed the referee’s failure to award him tries is long gone.
“I remember both incidents very clearly,” he said. “The first one ended up with a great big pile-up and I was at the bottom of it all with the ball. There must have been ten or so guys on top of me and it wasn’t seen. It was still a try, but I just wasn’t spotted. Listen, it’s a hard job these guys have got. Who would want to be a ref or a TMO?
“The other one I took a short ball off the scrum-half and felt sure I got over and got the ball down. But the referee ruled I had been driven back. That’s just the way it goes I guess.
“I’ve had a couple like that over the years with Scotland but you pick yourself up and you get going again. Scoring tries is not really a big part of my game, is it?”
Jacobsen laughs that he once had a try-scoring celebration planned for when the moment arose, but “that was about eight years ago and I’ve forgotten it now”. But, as welcome as it is, try-scoring is not the main function of a prop. His role centres on the grunt, the scrummaging, lifting in the lineout and making hard yards with heads buried in the torsos of forwards a stone or two heavier and often eight or nine inches taller.
In that regard he has been a great example of Scottish rugby’s ability to punch above its weight, having grown into the role and developed belief that the ‘Chunk’ from Prestonpans can compete with the world’s leading tighthead props. Back this week in the Azzurri line-up is one of them, the hirsute Martin Castrogiovanni, and Jacobsen’s smile widens at the mention of the Argentine-born 6ft 2in prop.
What does he bring to the Italian challenge? “Very long hair,” says Jacobsen, with a chuckle. “I’ve played ‘Castro’ lots of times over the years, with Scotland against Italy and with Edinburgh against Leicester a few times.
“We’ve had a few good tussles and I look forward to this one. It will be no different and I’m sure he’s looking forward to it too. It will be good to see him. He’s obviously a good scrummager, but he’s like a talisman for them as well. There’s no doubt they’ll be stronger for having him there.
“The scrum is enormous against Italy. They get strength from it. When they scrum well their whole game goes well from there. We need to combat that.”
Scotland also need to rediscover the solid platform that was providing optimism in the first half of the tournament, after it slipped into reverse in the second half against the Irish. “You do get pretty negative about things. I was unhappy with everything in general [after the Ireland game], but especially the way the scrum had gone,” said Jacobsen. “When I came back in on Monday, I saw that the majority of scrums on our ball were okay. We were pushed off the last one in the last minute, which is unacceptable, but in the first-half especially we were pretty good.
“In the second-half we were chasing the game and we just lost our focus on the scrum. We were trying to get out early and make tackles, hitting the scrum but coming off before the ball was away. And it was everybody, not the two or three forward subs who came on.
“When you’re chasing a game away from home it’s the scrum and lineout that keep you in it. We forgot about our bread and butter. There’s no doubt this week that the scrum and mauling around the lineout is where the game will be won and lost.”
Jacobsen has always been a fairly chilled customer, and he has learned much from his coach at Edinburgh, the original ‘quiet man’ Tom Smith on how to get under opponents, physically and metaphorically, without losing his cool.
At 33, he knows, however, that opportunities to win silverware are shrinking. Another chance has now gone – wooden spoons don’t gleam – and now he finds himself in the familiar position of fighting to regain some pride, in a hostile new Italian arena with an extra 40,000 Italian supporters than usual.
Having had to wait until his fourth meeting with the Azzurri to claim a win against them, and still possessing just two in six meetings, he knows more than any player how tough winning here is.
There have been words spat between players across training sessions this week, he revealed, encouraged by skipper Ross Ford and himself who have demanded honesty from the players and there was a particularly “brutal” scrummaging session. With Jacobsen, one does not have to scratch the surface to see how much it has meant to play for Scotland, and lose, and lose again and again.
“Yeah, we had a really good scrummaging session and I think a lot of that came from anger,” he said, the cheeky smile long gone. “If you are angry with someone you have to tell them. It’s no good keeping it in. Maybe that hasn’t happened enough in the past five years.
“In the last few years we’ve promised so much and never delivered. This year is the same, but it’s doubly frustrating because I genuinely feel this team is better than the results have shown.
“I’ve played in games where I came off at the end thinking we never could have won, weren’t good enough, but this year is different. We were in all these game and that’s more frustrating.
“But all that matters is winning and losing. In 50 years that’s what they’ll look at.”
Few players have put as much into the cause as the 5ft 10in Jacobsen. But team sport relies on more than individual commitment and he knows that to lift the pressure on the squad after a run of six defeats, and suggest a brighter future, he needs the scrum to function consistently well and the rest of the side to follow suit.
“I don’t think there is extra pressure going into this game,” he added. “But I do feel extra motivation. All the boys are fully behind Andy [Robinson]. He is a great coach; they are all great coaches and because one or two are leaving that gives us extra motivation, too. Gregor [Townsend] and Steady [Graham Steadman] have worked hard for the team; Steady has made a big difference to my game and they deserve to be sent off with a win. But you need to work to get that win. We need it in Italy; we need it badly.”
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West