GLASGOW’S latest Scotland cap, Tommy Seymour, believes that the team’s record number of call-ups for the national squad, and the age of the selections, is fuelling a new-found confidence in Scottish rugby.
Seymour made his debut for Scotland against South Africa on the summer tour and, while there is little doubt that opportunities for some players then were due to others being missing, the winger grabbed his chance with a fine display.
He has come back to a Glasgow Warriors side that has carried on from where they left off at the end of last season, perhaps not yet producing fluid 80-minute displays but certainly showing enough quality and the necessary spirit to claim seven wins from eight games so far. That is reflected in the unprecedented selection of 18 of their squad for next week’s training camp, which is being held at their Scotstoun home.
“It is brilliant,” said Seymour. “Eighteen is a huge number of lads to be included. It is not just about Johnno [Scott Johnson] increasing the pool. It is about every single one of the guys deserving their spots, especially the new boys coming in. Chris Fusaro would have had his opportunity earlier if it had not been for injury. Jonny Gray and Mark Bennett, coming off the back of the under-20s, have played brilliantly for us this year and have been consistent.
“I don’t doubt for a second that, for these two lads, being the age they are, to be rewarded for their consistent and high-qualify performances will give them a huge amount of confidence, and a huge amount of reassurance that they are doing everything right to be included.
“Hopefully, that will carry on into their Glasgow performances and I have no doubt the other young guys around the same age will take confidence from it as well.
“It leads back to Hoggy [Stuart Hogg] getting included at a young age as well. Younger and younger players are believing they can get included in these squads. It is a confidence thing. It breathes in and out of different players and every player takes it on.
“Personally, I am just thankful to be involved. I am still very much a new cap so it is great to be included with so many boys but, hopefully, we can carry the form we have shown on the field for Glasgow into the Scotland set-up.”
The Tennessee-born, Dubai/Belfast-bred youngster is now settled in Scotland’s largest city but the five uncapped players in the training squad only adds to his belief that he is far from an established figure yet.
In truth, Johnson’s drive for greater competition is geared towards ensuring no-one in the squad feels his position is safe.
Johnson is only interim coach but is already talking regularly with full-time successor Vern Cotter about the next two years leading up to the Rugby World Cup. Cotter believes Johnson’s strengths, notably attention to detail and skill development as well as motivation, will be invaluable as they try to make Scotland genuinely competitive.
But another key aspect of Johnson’s approach is building confidence and Seymour acknowledged that his style and the team’s summer performances instilled a belief in the players that, combined with a similar approach from Gregor Townsend, the head coach at Glasgow, and assistants Matt Taylor and Shade Munro, has cultivated a confidence that Scots do have the ability to perform at the highest level.
“Playing South Africa out there was massive for me,” he said. “To get two Test caps under high-pressure conditions was wonderful. It has allowed me to relax a bit more in my game and trust my instincts a bit more in the tougher games, like the Toulon one for example.
“I am having a bit more confidence in myself in what I can do. Everyone involved out there against South Africa and watching knew it was a massive thing to play the way we did. We ended up losing but we had a shout to win it and gave them a more comfortable scoreline with that last-minute try.
“It allows people to realise we are not going out just to play against these teams. We are going out to compete against them even in their own backyard. We can go and compete and, hopefully, win these games.
“It would be great to have another crack at them at Murrayfield. It would be the same feeling playing against Japan, South Africa or Australia – I would be thankful for any cap.
“Japan showed how good they were beating Wales so that is not a lesser cap, but, yes, playing South Africa in their backyard and losing means everyone involved in that game will relish the opportunity to get them at Murrayfield and put the result right.”
First though, Seymour has the not insignificant matter of a RaboDirect Pro12 match against Munster, currently second to the Warriors in the table, at Scotstoun tomorrow night. “We are pro players and boys can be very happy about their inclusion and go about congratulating each other,” he added, “but it has to be one of hese things that you take in, get a pat on the back and go straight back to work.
“You can’t dwell on the Scotland stuff too much. You have to concentrate on the result against Munster. That is going to be a huge test but the confidence is there, and, having so many boys in the squad leading up to the Munster game, hopefully that confidence can bleed into the game and we can unite for this big one-two clash,” said Seymour.