To many, the appointment of ex-Army man Dean Ryan as forwards coach ahead of Saturday’s trip to Twickenham and the start of another RBS Six Nations Championship symbolises the new hard-edged approach being cultivated at Scottish Rugby.
Ryan, after all, has hands-on experience of the cut-throat English Premiership, which produces almost all the opposing England team through his work with Newcastle and Gloucester and it is where his reputation as a stern disciplinarian was forged.
But working away in the background as part of the same interim management panel appointed by new Scotland interim coach Scott Johnson with a special skills remit will be Steve Scott, a Scotland hooker capped 11 times whose professional coaching teeth were cut at Sale Sharks and who, as he confirms, is very much a man on a mission.
A two-year stint at Sale for Scott ended abruptly this season when executive director Steve Diamond reacted to a woeful start by taking over responsibility for the forwards himself, but such circumstances have made Scott even more determined to succeed, while believing he couldn’t have had a better grounding for the Test arena.
He said: “Some might question the standard of rugby in England’s Premiership, but as a coach I don’t think there is a tougher place to go and cut your teeth. The games are brutal and back-to-back. The players don’t get any rest. You have massive pressure for results.
“On top of that, you have the Heineken Cup qualification mid-season and obviously the play-offs at the end. So, over the whole season, every point counts in the Premiership.”
It is against that background that Scot jumped at the chance to work with the country he represented always as a substitute starting with a match against the mighty All Blacks in Auckland back in 2000.
“It is something that can lead me forward as a better coach and to my next job wherever it might be. It is a massive opportunity for me because I was out of the game for two or three months.
“To be given an opportunity to show what I have learned from the last two or three years via a Scotland team is really exciting.”
Scott’s pro career was split between the Borders and Edinburgh, where he had some outstanding moments, especially in Europe.
Debuting back in 1998, he was a member of Edinburgh’s team which drew a remarkable Heineken European Cup match with Ulster in Belfast.
It was, however, another away Euro fixture with Edinburgh, south of the border, that provided a highlight.
“We went to Northampton and beat the reigning European champions with the help of a rather ugly looking drop goal from Duncan Hodge.
“That was some result and showed what can be achieved.”
After leaving Edinburgh another five seasons with the Borders followed until that region’s demise as a pro entity and from there it was on to coaching having emerged through the same Melrose club that has produced mentors such as Bryan and Craig Redpath, Craig Chalmers, Carl Hogg, Rob Moffat and Graham Shiel.
“All of us were nurtured by Jim Telfer at a time when Melrose were professional in everything except payment for playing,” recalled Scott. “Melrose have always been driven with a lot of great players coming through.
“We were among the first to put in Sunday training sessions and eat together on occasions.
“Away from scheduled training the team were often to be found doing individual weights sessions. As a player you got the hard work and honesty ethic from Jim Telfer. That has seen me through quite a lot of how I lead my life and still does.
“Coming from that environment it was difficult not to imagine wanting to go down the coaching route and my chance came with Selkirk.
“The pressure was nothing like what you can experience higher up the scale, but it provided confirmation that coaching is the closest thing to actually playing. I spent three year at Selkirk before a chance came to work with the Academy lads at Murrayfield.
“It was while I was there that an opportunity arose through Mike Brewer (former Scotland forwards coach) who had gone to Sale. I sat down with Andy Robinson to whom I’d always made clear I wanted to be a forwards coach in my own right and talked the idea through at length. We agreed the right thing to do was to work in the Premiership and although it didn’t work out the way I wanted from a learning point of view it has been outstanding.
“There were a lot of challenging times at Sale, but a lot of good times as well.
“Now I’ve got a chance with Scotland and as well as wanting success during this Six Nations, it is an exciting opportunity to get back involved when the tournament ends.”
By Scott’s calculation his Edinburgh career, including pre-Celtic League, spanned exactly 99 games and he would surely trade a chance to play a hundredth time for Edinburgh for becoming part of the group which orchestrated a first Twickenham win in 30 years.
Few have greater understanding of the Scottish rugby psyche, certainly, and this was recognised by SRU chief executive Mark Dodson when making the appointment.
Dean Ryan might have the lofty reputation and justifiably so, but as Dodson said: “Steve has a deep-rooted understanding of Scottish rugby and its players.”