Mental skills coach can help Scotland ‘in the big moments’ as coach quizzed on Finn Russell recall

Scotland discovered in Argentina that the margins between victory and defeat are wafer thin so will hope the addition of a “mental skills coach” will give them the edge as they prepare to embark on a momentous 12 months of rugby.

Aaron Walsh will work with Scotland as mental skills coach. (Photo by Greg Bowker/Getty Images)
Aaron Walsh will work with Scotland as mental skills coach. (Photo by Greg Bowker/Getty Images)

Aaron Walsh will fly in on Friday and be involved in preparations for the Australia game at Murrayfield the following day and the remainder of the Autumn Nations Series. He will return for the Six Nations early next year and, all being well, will be part of the group which goes to the Rugby World Cup next autumn.

Walsh is currently employed by the Super Rugby side the Chiefs in New Zealand but has also worked with sportspeople in baseball, rugby league, hockey, cricket and football. Steve Tandy, the Scotland defence coach, believes he could be a key addition. “The game is evolving. There’s a lot of mental skills involved in big Test matches,” said Tandy.

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This weekend’s match against the touring Wallabies is Scotland’s first outing since the agonising end to their summer tour. Gregor Townsend’s side let slip a 15-point lead in the deciding third Test against Argentina and lost the game 34-31 when Pumas wing Emiliano Boffelli scored a try from the final play of the game. “I think if he can help the guys in big moments and help them perform better, that could add value to us,” Tandy said of Walsh.

Cameron Redpath, centre, took part in the Scotland session at Oriam. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Scotland have held the whip hand over Australia in recent years and on Saturday they will bid to beat the Wallabies for an unprecedented fourth time in a row. The degree of difficulty increases this time around as they will have to do it with a squad composed entirely of players from Edinburgh and Glasgow. By opting to play a match outside the designated international window Scotland will have no access to their English-based players but Tandy believes that can serve as motivation to the home-based crew.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for the guys,” said the coach. “The home-based guys have an exciting opportunity to go up against a nation like Australia. They’ll be playing in front of a sell-out at BT Murrayfield. That’s inspiring in itself. They’re looking forward to putting a performance in.”

Inevitably, the subject of Finn Russell’s absence was raised. The stand-off was left out of the autumn squad by Townsend who called on the Racing 92 stand-off to show “form and consistency”. Russell answered the first part at least on Saturday when he had a hand in three tries and kicked 18 points as Racing defeated Montpellier, the French champions. Tandy didn’t see the match but said “never say never” when asked about the possibility of a recall for Russell.

“I haven’t pulled up the game from the weekend,” said Tandy. “I’ve just obviously been looking at the boys who were coming in for this week and the 10s that were here. Gregor has been on top of the performances. I think we are always watching as coaches, particularly in the attacking end of the game. So, we would never say never, but first and foremost we’ve got to really concentrate on the boys who are in and what they are going to bring over the autumn period.”

Steve Tandy during a Scotland training session on Tuesday. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

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