Matt Scott full of pride as new generation of backs emerges
THE Scotland team travelled from Newcastle back to Manly, the breathtaking suburb of Sydney-by-the-Sea, where they will be based until the squad flies to Fiji on Saturday.
And, after their momentous 9-6 victory over Australia, it was hardly surprising that one or two bodies were feeling sore, although none could match Joe Ansbro, who looked more like Joe Frazier with a huge egg protruding from his eyebrow where Alasdair Strokosch caught him in the post-match celebrations.
The flanker didn’t emerge unscathed but he definitely came off better in that clash just as he had done in so many others throughout the 80 minutes.
Walking into the team hotel overlooking Manly beach, two players sported their Scotland caps. Debutants Ryan Grant and Tom Brown were under strict instructions not to remove them all day and, while they cut a certain sartorial dash, the tassel cap is unlikely to catch on with Manly’s surfing community.
Brown who came on on the wing, is, with centre Matt Scott and Stuart Hogg at full-back, a member of the new generation of Scotland backs to emerge this season. They are players who are more pace than power, more step than stomp. None of them is going to run through a brick wall, but, then again, none were found wanting when the Australians attempted to go route one to the Scottish try line on a wet and wild Tuesday evening.
Scott said: “You just have to get your head around the conditions. I’ve played in stuff like that back home.”
The Edinburgh player, who was on the losing side in his first cap in Dublin in the Six Nations, added: “We knew what we had to do, just keep it tight, work hard, chase kicks and defend well.
“To be honest, the forwards did most of the work. I feel as if I didn’t do much on the day. It was a surreal experience. I think I touched the ball twice, but I feel as if I’ve not done too much. But much credit has to go to the forwards who were outstanding. That’s the nature of these games in theses conditions. It’s not a great spectacle for the neutral – it’s nitty-gritty stuff.”
One of the peculiarities of Tuesday’s Test in Newcastle was that, from the 38th minute, when Brown replaced Sean Lamont, five of the Scotland back line hailed from the capital club. Scott for one was happy to see another Edinburgh team-mate on the pitch.
“Yeah, it’s good having a club-mate alongside me,” the centre added. “Obviously it helps a lot having Greig [Laidlaw] and Nick [De Luca] inside me and outside me and with Mike [Blair] at nine. We all know each other really well and defensively we’ve been together all season and I think that was a massive help and to have another member of the Edinburgh back line on the pitch was a help as well.
“I’ve had a relatively short professional career, but I’d say that that was the best defensive performance I’ve ever been involved in. Scottish teams in those conditions seem to switch on and battle hard.”
It was a memorable night for all involved, although Brown revealed that he played 42 minutes without receiving a single pass from a team-mate.
“What an incredible experience,” said the winger, happy in the knowledge that his first Test coincided with Scotland’s first win in Australia for 30 years.
“What a game to get your first cap in and to beat the Aussies Down Under! It’s a great feeling and I’m absolutely loving it, so I’m hoping for more and to keep the success going with Scotland for the rest of the tour.”
The other aspect that this young generations of backs has in common is their versatility. Brown played on the wing, but sees himself primarily as a full-back who is hoping to put some pressure on Hogg. Meanwhile, the Hawick 15 can fill in on the wing or at 13 and Scott grew up playing stand-off – a position he might yet revisit.
The players have a couple of light recovery days in Manly planned alongside some video analysis, but are already looking forward to Fiji which is looming large. The conditions will surely be the polar opposite of Tuesday nigh: hot, humid and hard.
“We were training in those conditions last week,” said Brown. “It’s just about acclimatising. We’ll get over there and we’ll start getting used to those conditions. They pose a big threat physically, both Fiji and Samoa, and it’s a challenge we have to take on and front up. We’re looking forward to getting over there and taking on the challenge.”
When they finally get to Fiji on Saturday, one more Edinburgh back will come into the mix, although this one does not share the same slight and subtle DNA as the others. Tim Visser qualifies for Scotland on Tuesday and Andy Robinson surely didn’t bring the Dutchman halfway around the world just to top up his suntan.
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Friday 24 May 2013
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