SCOTLAND’S captain of last season Kelly Brown enjoyed a whirlwind trip north yesterday to launch the new national change strip – and took the opportunity to urge Edinburgh to follow Glasgow’s example and lift their performances to a new level.
Brown joined forces with Matt Scott at RAF Leuchars in what resembled a scene from the 1980s film Top Gun, as they were set up to emerge from the cockpit of a Typhoon in full pilot gear to then strip off and reveal the new white jersey for the benefit of an SRU video.
The reason for the RAF link-up was to promote the fact the second autumn game, the swift rematch with South Africa, will be an Armed Forces Test to follow on from the success of the Forces link around last year’s Test against the All Blacks. It will also be the first outing for the new kit, which drops the huge Saltire for a more discreet version, but keeps the lighter Saltire blue rather than the traditional navy.
Both players are out with ankle injuries, Scott having gone down in Edinburgh’s pre-season friendly at Northampton while Brown is in the last stages of recovering from the injury that cut short his summer tour in South Africa after just 40 minutes of the opening Test. They are confident of being back by next month and pushing claims for a return to the Scotland line-up in the autumn Tests with Japan, the Springboks and Australia, with Brown hopeful of reclaiming the captaincy, and that a rejuvenated Edinburgh and Glasgow will boost confidence levels.
He said: “Edinburgh had a good win on Friday [against Newcastle] and went well at Northampton the week before, so it looks encouraging for them. I just hope that they can build and become a really strong side.
“I watched Glasgow last season and it was awesome to see. They played unbelievable rugby and were really stingy in defence as well, and that’s the sign of a good side. I just hope that Edinburgh this year can be as good and can challenge a lot of the teams.
“When you have guys that are used to winning it helps any squad and these Glasgow guys were coming into the Scotland squad last season buzzing and absolutely flying in terms of their levels of performance. So we need as many guys as we can winning week in week out, here and for their teams outside the country, to build the confidence with Scotland.
“As for me, it’s always disappointing to suffer injury, but I realised after my other leg injury that this is part of the game and I’d been incredibly lucky to play for eight seasons as a pro and have nothing.
“So you have to look at the positive and it was not the worst time because I could rehab all through pre-season and be ready almost for the start of the new season. I’m back running and doing lineout stuff, and I’d hope to be back into all the team stuff in the next week or two and then build up from there to a match within a month.”
Hopefully, the Saracens back row does not place much store in superstition as after those eight trouble-free years his leg injuries have come the moment he was called on by his country to captain the national side. He overcame the first in January 2012, which ruined his first appointment as captain, to lead the team through last season’s difficult autumn, which preceded the resignation of head coach Andy Robinson, and then enjoyed some succour with better performances and wins over Ireland and Italy that handed Scotland a first top-three finish in the RBS Six Nations in six years.
He is as confident of overcoming this latest setback, suffered on his 31st birthday, and after flying into Edinburgh early yesterday for breakfast with interim coach Scott Johnson – before flying back to London last night – is eager to see the flickers of promise from the first half of the year turn into something more tangible in the second.
He said: “I think that it was a big success in that a lot of guys came in for their first caps. We finished third in the Six Nations last year and I’m desperate that we keep on building. I’ve spoken to many people who are hugely impressed by the way we’re going, but I’m quite cautious and I just want us to keep improving.
“We can take confidence from the Test against South Africa, even though we lost it in the end. It proved again that when we’re on our game we can challenge any team in the world, so it’s about making sure that we are on our game in every Test match we play.
“That’s the challenge. We have three tough games in the autumn starting with Japan, who beat Wales in the summer. Granted it wasn’t the full-strength Welsh team but it was still a very strong side, so I’m focused on just making sure that when we go out to play we really nail that level of intensity.
“I played in the win over South Africa here last time, and they are always a tough side, but we showed in the summer that we can stand up to them so it’s about making sure that we can bring that physical intensity every time that we play.
“That’s what I’m looking for. If we get our skill level up there and we’re physical and work hard we can put all three sides under pressure and be successful. And that has to be the focus for every Scottish player, wherever they’re playing, over the next couple of months.”