Interview: Tim Visser eyes World Cup horizons

WHEN he was growing up in Holland, Tim Visser barely even saw or heard anything about Rugby World Cups on the television.

Scotland international winger Tim Visser in Six Nations action against Ireland. Picture: SNS

Sure, he remembers when Jonah Lomu was the star for New Zealand in 1995 and when Jonny Wilkinson kicked the winning drop goal for England in 2003, but he did not watch the matches religiously like rugby-mad youngsters over here would do.

However, having made his Scotland debut in 2012 after qualifying through residency and also by impressing with his try-scoring antics for Edinburgh Rugby, winger Visser is as excited as anyone ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015.

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The 28-year-old said: “I never really dreamt about being a professional rugby player because no such opportunities really existed in Holland, so to have the chance to maybe go to a World Cup is very special and I will try and grab it with both hands.

Visser in action for Edinburgh against Leinster. Picture: SNS

“When I decided to commit to playing for Scotland, World Cups were not really on my mind. I am the kind of guy who takes things one season at a time, so I have always just tried to make the current season better than the one before, and eventually you just try and take opportunities like this when they come around.

“I think I really started to look to this event during the season just gone. Everybody knew this was on the horizon and was trying to put their best foot forward.

“After the Six Nations I really started to look towards selection and wanted to make sure I was in the extended training squad to start with.

“I guess that as a team we do have something to prove. Every team wants to make it out of the group stages and we are no different.

Scotland coach Vern Cotter. Picture: Ian Rutherford

“As a team we cannot look too far ahead. We have some really tough warm-up matches and then we cannot look further than Japan [on 23 September].”

Harlequins-bound Visser has always been a straight talker and he knows that the Six Nations performance, when the team lost all five of their matches back in February and March, was unacceptable.

“Of course we were down in the dumps after the Six Nations, but you never can be for too long because everyone goes back to their club teams and tries to refocus,” he explained.

“Glasgow went on to win the Pro12, we [Edinburgh] got to the final of the European Rugby Challenge Cup and Saracens did well – so everyone had to concentrate on club matters and a lot of us have come into this training camp on a bit of a high, to be honest.

“Of course, in the back of our minds we knew the Six Nations was disappointing and when we came back together as a group we talked about it, but you have to leave that kind of stuff behind you, especially when you are going in to something as special as a World Cup.

“We are now focusing on the physical side of things in training, making sure that we will be one of the fittest sides at the tournament come September, and then in the next few weeks we will start playing more rugby.”

Visser and his squad mates have just finished the first block of three weeks in the pre-World Cup camp.

They will reconvene next week at BT Murrayfield to be put through their paces by Vern Cotter and the other coaches after a few days off.

Visser is certainly being kept on his toes by competition for wing spots – and he has been impressed by the newcomers Damien Hoyland and Rory Hughes.

Hoyland, 21, has started just one match for Edinburgh to date, but has impressed with Scotland Under-20s over the last couple of years and the Scotland Sevens team this term.

Twenty-two-year-old Hughes has previously played for Scotland Sevens too and impressed Cotter in a recent practice match.

“Having them coming into the squad does make me refocus because they are both very good players, they are both ridiculously fit and they are pushing the back three on,” Visser said.

“I think there is some genuine competition for places and it is keeping everyone on their toes.”

As well as Visser, Hoyland and Hughes, Tommy Seymour, Sean Maitland, Sean Lamont and Dougie Fife are all trying to secure winger berths for the showpiece event.

It means that the warm-up matches in August and early September will be crucial for all of them and Visser, although undoubtedly one of the best finishers in the bunch, will want to show Cotter that he has worked hard on his defensive weaknesses at the top level.

Visser concluded: “The training camp has been pretty full-on so far, to be honest. The time in France was hard, but we got the work done and to be fair, we became a much tighter team up there [in the Pyrenees]. However, it is good to be back at sea level!

“I am looking forward to the week off because you cannot train at this pace for longer than a few weeks, so everyone will be keen to recuperate and then get the energy together for the next batch of training.

“I think it is really good the way he [Cotter] has done it because everyone has come into camp feeling pretty fit. We have now had a tough three weeks and everyone is back up to the fitness levels that they should be.

“Rugby at the top level is a different ball game now. I think our pool at the big event is tricky and that is why you cannot look too far ahead. Samoa, well maybe five or six years ago you may have expected to beat them, but now they are tough.

“We have beaten them twice and lost once in the last few years and they are a good team, especially when they have their European-based stars back – there are no easy games.”