Scotland not expecting repeat of Cardiff horror show
Forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys doesn't feel any extra incentive to get Scotland back to winning ways against his native land, whom he represented 35 times at hooker.
The 46-year-old will return to Cardiff, and the now Principality Stadium, for a second time as a member of the Scottish coaching staff on Saturday but insists that his own background is insignificant in the context of the search for that badly-needed victory after the run of consecutive Six Nations defeats stretched to eight with the 15-9 loss at home to England three days ago.
“It’s obviously different when you go down there and get caught up in it all, but I have no desire to beat them more than any other team,” said the Welshman. “It would be great for these boys to get over the line and springboard something going forward.”
Humphreys faced the country he now works for five times in a red jersey, winning three and losing two, and is aware that Scotland haven’t tasted victory in Cardiff since 2002. However, he doesn’t feel that extending that particular run will be occupying Welsh minds much.
“I think they value their home record in the Six Nations as a whole; it’s not against any one team in particular,” he said. “They are a very difficult team to beat, a very physical side, and they are probably trying to play a bit more rugby than they have in the past. It’s going to be an incredible atmosphere and it will be incredibly tough, but hopefully we will be prepared for that.”
Wales started with a 16-16 draw against back-to-back champions Ireland in Dublin on Sunday, battling back from 13-0 down, and Humphreys said it was always going to be a demanding match this week no matter how Warren Gatland’s men had got out of the blocks.
“I think Wales are pretty resourceful in terms of coming out of tricky situations,” added. “They’ve done it many, many times. From our point of view, it’s better that we concentrate on ourselves and work on the things that we feel are stopping us getting over the line in close games.
“It’s always interesting to see how the opposition’s game goes, and we will tweak a few things, but we have two days of training and Wales probably have just one and a half. Nothing much will change. Rather than concentrating on what they think and feel, it is important that we work on ourselves.”
Asked what gives Wales that resourcefulness to deal with tricky situations, Humphreys replied: “That team has been together an incredibly long time. It has. We are trying to play a bit of catch-up, trying to work on the small details without getting too emotional about the outcome. We are trying to be fixed on the process, and that’s something we can do.”
Humphreys, who left Ospreys to take on the forwards role at Murrayfield in June 2013, was there on that black day in Cardiff two years ago, when Stuart Hogg was red carded and the Scots slipped to a shambolic record 51-3 defeat. “Pretty bad, mate, pretty bad,” is his response when asked what his memories were of that afternoon. “There’s not a lot you can do in that situation. It felt a little bit like the Samoa game [in last year’s World Cup]; when they had the ball you just felt they would go on and score. They were throwing the ball everywhere and it was sticking. People were running riot.
“It was one of those games. You hope you don’t go through too many in your life. But looking at us now compared to where we were then, I think we are significantly further down the line.
“It’s difficult to show that when you don’t get across those lines in really close games, but as a group we do feel we are improving. They are ready to take that next step.”
Humphreys shared the frustration of the entire squad, coaching staff and nation that yet another Six Nations has got off to a losing start, draining the optimism levels which had been raised following the positive showing at the World Cup.
“We were pretty frustrated as a team with some aspects of the game,” he said. “We looked rusty at times out there. We created opportunities and got inside their 22 eight times. The frustrating fact is that we came away with no points and got a little sloppy at crucial times.
“We were in that game all the way through. The other times I have been involved with against England we were not really in the game. We lost two years ago here and at Twickenham but in this game we were in it. We are deeply frustrated we did not get the result we thought we could have got.”
The story of the last Six Nations whitewash was strong showings in first halves dropping off in the second – a trend, interestingly, that was reversed at the World Cup. Humphreys doesn’t believe we are heading for a repeat of the 2015 tournament, when teams seemed to work Scotland out and put them to the sword as the games went on.
“I hope not,” he said. “In the World Cup we scored a lot of points in the second half and we started games extremely strongly after half-time. It is something we are working on and need to figure it out as best we can.”