SEAN Lamont has a certain affinity with Samoa. The big winger earned his first Scotland cap against the South Sea islanders in Wellington way back in 2004 under Matt Williams.
It is a testimony to the winger’s longevity that Lamont is now on his third Scotland coach, and his 50th cap also came against Samoa in Aberdeen two years ago, when a late penalty from Ruaridh Jackson secured a narrow three-point win.
Lamont is Scottish rugby’s barometer, an accurate indicator of the pressure for places in the back line. Put simply he is coach Andy Robinson’s go-to-guy when there is a gap in the team with no specialist capable of filling it.
Lamont is a winger, and a very handy one at that, but his skill set makes it a struggle to play anywhere else and the further he moves from the flank, the more trouble Scotland are in.
But, thanks to his competitive instincts, Lamont has “done a job” for Robinson all over the back line without ever looking completely out of place.
When the big man shows up at inside centre, you know there is trouble afoot. When he sports a No 15 on his back it’s only because there is no one else and, when he turns up in the outside centre channel, the Scottish fans watch the match through their fingers.
But now he is back where he belongs – on the right wing against Samoa on Saturday in Apia. And that must be a positive sign for an exciting young Scotland back line.
“I can cover those positions so I suppose that’s another string to my bow so it helps me in that respect,” says Lamont while being mobbed by a pack of schoolkids from Feilifi College in Apia.
“Obviously with [left-winger Tim] Visser coming through now as well, there’s another back, and that’s great for Scotland. I’m 31 now and I think I’m one of the oldest now, certainly top three. But, hopefully, I can keep going for a long time yet given the way I play.
“I’m happy with being back on the wing.”
Half a dozen players, along with tour manager Gavin Scott and Scottish Rugby Union president Ian McLauchlan and his wife, made what turned out to be a hilarious visit to the Apia school where the Scots enjoyed the very best of Samoan hospitality laced with a friendly if unexpected irreverence.
Scott Lawson proved a master of the one-liner when going head to head with the college clown, insisting he’d mistaken the joker for the college principle... cue gales of laughter.
Tom Brown and Chris Cusiter’s blond hair marked them out as the girls’ favourites and the latter was asked to copy some risque dance moves that owed more to a Carry On film than anything from Samoan culture.
Lamont fielded questions from the youngsters but he will be posed more challenging questions on Saturday afternoon by Samoan skipper David Lemi.
“He’s got great feet,” says Lamont of the pocket rocket he will be facing. “He’s knows his way to the try line and he’s got a great skill set.
“I’ve come across him plenty of times when he was at Bristol and I was at Northampton. He was at Glasgow this year and, while I don’t know him personally, I am on nodding terms with him.”
Since Lamont must stand a clear six inches taller than his opposite number, the aerial option is an obvious route to go, especially since Edinburgh and Scotland stand-off Greig Laidlaw spent most of last season putting the ball on a sixpence for Visser.
“It is an option but there are plenty of others,” continued Lamont. “We have highlighted a few things but yes, it is an option and I wouldn’t mind a nice early [high] ball.”
Following on from Scotland’s dismal Six Nations campaign, this squad have gone at least some of the way to redeeming themselves with wins already over Australia in Newcastle and Fiji in Lautoka.
There is an upbeat and positive air about the players that is a blessed relief after the some of the hits they have taken, both on and off the field and Lamont, for one, could not be any happier.
“That Six Nations was mentally the toughest that I’d experienced in my career,” he said. “Just the endeavour and the way the boys played, because we played some good rugby. We put so much effort in and just came out on the wrong side of the scoreline time and again. It was soul destroying.
“It’s a lot happier squad now. We knew we had a big task against Australia and the heavens helped us [with the monsson conditions] but we’ll take every win we get and it was something we needed not just for the players’ welfare and mental health but for Scottish rugby.”
Having started under one Aussie coach in Williams, Lamont is quick to praise the contribution of another Australian in Scott Johnston, the new assistant coach who is slowly proving his worth on this trip.
“He’s been a really, really good addition. Before he joined I spoke to Stephen Jones [of the Scarlets] and he rated him highly. Scott has some good ideas and he’s helped me already. Little things like knowing who to attach to in certain moves.”
“Attach” is the new buzzword amongst the Scottish backs and Lamont added: “He’s got the back line working together in that we are attaching to the same person so, if someone goes to the line, then everyone goes to the line which means we should finish off any line breaks against Samoa, which is the main thing.
“I think we made the most line breaks in the Six Nations but we just have to learn to back up and finish them. We are so used to hitting the ball up and recycling that there were times when we were setting up for the next phase before the last one was finished! Scott has underlined that we have to attach to the line [ie anticipate a half break] in every attack. We got a fair few tries last weekend and we just have to back them up again.”
Having Lamont back where he belongs is a good start.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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