Scotland defence coach praises Warriors' zero heroes

While most eyes focused on the 43 after Glasgow Warriors' name on Saturday night it was the 0 which followed Leicester Tigers which gave defence coach Matt Taylor the most satisfaction.

Defence coach Matt Taylor during Scotland training at the Oriam Centre, Edinburgh.
Defence coach Matt Taylor during Scotland training at the Oriam Centre, Edinburgh.

That seismic result at Welford Road was still dominating conversation at the Scotland training camp yesterday, with the hope that the Warriors’ surge into the Champions Cup quarter-finals, allied with Edinburgh’s progress in the Challenge Cup, can propel Vern Cotter’s men to a momentum-sparking opening win against Ireland a week on 
Saturday.

Taylor wears the caps of 
Glasgow and Scotland, with his national role to become full-time with Gregor Townsend at the end of the season, and he was still basking in the glow of that incredible shut-out which stunned the Welford Road fortress.

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“The most stressed I was on Saturday was in the last five or ten minutes, when Leicester were desperately trying to get a try,” said Taylor.

“We had spoken at half-time about not letting them score a try. I was really proud of 
the boys.

“I know they got together just before that late scrum on our line – and decided they weren’t going to let them in. That was great to see.”

The challenge now is to transfer the positivity to Scotland and Taylor added: “‘Because I’ve been involved with both teams, both systems are pretty much exactly the same.

“Like any team, 80 or 90 per cent of what we do defensively will be the same each week. Then we just tweak the rest depending on the opposition. I certainly think, over the past season or two, we’ve upped our ante defensively. We’ve 
needed to.

“It will be needed against Ireland, who are a very strong attacking team. I think the Glasgow boys have defended really well lately. If you defend well, you’ve got a really good opportunity of winning.”

There is certainly a great deal of confidence and positivity heading into this Six Nations based on a number of factors. There was improvement last year after a sticky start, with good wins over France and Italy, and that was followed up by a successful autumn and capped by excellent European results from the pro teams.

It doesn’t take long to remember, though, that Ireland first up, albeit at home, is a huge test. They are a nation who have dished out a fair few hidings to Scottish teams in recent years and only a few months ago were toppling the seemingly invincible All Blacks.

“I think maybe in the last couple of years, it’s been tough. A couple of years ago at Murrayfield, obviously they had to run in a certain number of points [to win the title] and we had a few injuries.

“Last year was a wee bit similar. So getting them at the start of the tournament is better than getting them at the end.

“I think they’re a really good side and, on both occasions, they executed really well. We probably didn’t execute as well as we should have.”

The conundrum is that Glasgow in particular have a decent record against the top Irish provinces – although they have lost three times to Munster this term – but the gulf seems to widen when it becomes dark blue versus green.

“At Glasgow, we might have two thirds of the Scotland team. Three quarters, maybe,” said Taylor. “Sometimes you play those Irish provinces and it’s not quite like that for them.

“We’re excited that we’re playing at home and playing them first, which gives us two weeks to prepare for them.

“We’re disappointed that we haven’t been able to perform as well as we’d like against them in recent years. So I think you will find us very highly motivated and ready to get right in amongst them.”

A bit of spice has been added to the pot by Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray’s suggestion that Glasgow targeted his standing leg as he was kicking.

Townsend was adamant that his team stuck to the rules and Taylor added: “I think Gregor addressed this. At Glasgow, we’re a team who want to 
put a lot of pressure on the opposition.

“Munster and Ireland have a good kicking game. So we went out there to put as much 
pressure on the opposition as possible. We did that. And we did it within the laws. It’s really important to get that across. We didn’t do anything outside the law. Listen, I think people use various methods to try to get referees on their side. I think that’s maybe what they’re trying to do.”

As defence coach, Taylor has been following closely the interpretation of the new high tackle laws and will be working with the Scotland group to ensure everyone is on the same page.

“We had a referee come in and make a presentation today on the new law, what is acceptable.

“We [Glasgow] are generally a low tackling team so that should help us. But we’ve got to be really accurate with our tackling, because sometimes the way the game is, people are falling, you come in at 
the wrong angle, you hit
 them and you could be in 
trouble.

“We have prepared for 
playing with 14 men. Today was our first session together but we have a plan in place for how we’ll defend when we’re a man down.

“As a coaching group, we’ve put something together and I’ll be working on it with the players.

“We are prepared for it and will put it on the training park.”

Taylor is pleased with the burgeoning depth in the squad. Even at lock, where the Gray brothers Richie and Jonny have been obvious choices of late, there is competition from Tim Swinson’s back-to-back man-of-the-match awards in Europe.

“Good teams become great teams when you have a lot of depth,” said Taylor.

“Over the last year or two we have created that depth with guys coming through.

“We’ve done a lot of learning over the last year or two and we’re at a point where we need to make sure those learning opportunities are translated into wins.

“This year, with what we’ve done at club level, hopefully that can lead on to some good performances in the Six Nations.”