Scotland’s Tommy Seymour on defensive deficiencies

Tommy Seymour was born in Nashville and raised in Northern Ireland and Dubai. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Tommy Seymour was born in Nashville and raised in Northern Ireland and Dubai. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Share this article
Have your say

SCOTLAND’S peripatetic winger Tommy Seymour must boast more stamps in his passport than the globetrotting, pole-to-pole Michael Palin.

He was born in the USA and spent the first decade of his life playing soccer and basketball in Nashville. (Journalists desperately try to persuade Seymour that he must be a country and western fan but he is having none of it.) The youngster then moved to Northern Ireland, with occasional forays to Dubai where dad worked, until he was eventually persuaded to cross the Irish Sea and join the Warriors in Glasgow – “the best move I’ve ever made” – where his mother had been born to English parents. South Africa, Scotland’s opponents at Murrayfield this afternoon, appear to be one of the few Test teams that the winger does not qualify to play for.

At club level Seymour has a very decent strike of 11 tries in 39 Glasgow appearances. He has pace to burn and a nose for the tryline, so it was no great surprise that the flyer got his Test tally off the mark with a brace of touchdowns against Japan eight days ago. He scored his first try at the end of the first half and grabbed his second after the break courtesy of Ruaridh Jackson’s Exocet pass. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Scotland winger is all smiles and celebrations. You’d be wrong.

“It was a mixed bag for me,” says Seymour. “Obviously it’s an easy headline to put in the tries and I’m not going to say that I wasn’t incredibly happy to get those scores, especially as a winger. It’s great to get off the mark and get a couple of scores.

“But there was a lot of rustiness there, from the back-line as a unit, but a lot from me as well.

“Defensively, I pride myself on not making mistakes. No player enjoys making mistakes but it is something that I find a little bit harder to get over than most, so defensively I wasn’t too happy. I feel I have been a lot more sound for Glasgow this year and it is something I pride myself on, so that was definitely my main focus leading into this week.

“Unfortunately, the defensive side of things took the shine off it a little bit for me but at the same time it is a great reality check. I didn’t think I was going to go through a dream home debut and have everything go perfectly but I have definitely taken my lessons out of that and am looking to massively perform this week.

“There might be some people out there who will take two tries and be very happy with their performance but it took the shine off it for me because I don’t want to be the sort of player who goes out there and does something positive then does something negative but concentrates on the positive side of things. I need to make sure that if I have two opportunities, whether that is in attack or defence, I am good at both.

“I need to be an all-rounder. I need to be someone who makes sure he can do everything and is reliable in every aspect in order to play in this team, because there are guys who can come in that can do everything. It’s like Johnno [coach Scott Johnson] says: ‘It’s about playing for the shirt and playing to the best of your ability.’”

The 25-year-old is referring to the fact while he grabbed a brace of tries on Saturday last, so too did his opposite number, the equally speedy Kenki Fukuoka. Earlier this year the Japanese flyer scored two tries with his first two touches in international rugby but that was against the Philippines. To do the same against Scotland was not in the script, at least not in Seymour’s version.

There is no hiding place and Murrayfield is an awfully public place to make a mistake or three. A slightly chastened winger knows that he and the rest of the Scotland team need to go up through the gears if they are to hold at bay a Springboks side that is a lot stronger than many expected. The Bokke backs are the same ones that finished the game in Wales. Coach Heineke Meyer has opted for the more expansive of his twin playmakers, with Patrick Lambie given the start at stand-off ahead of the favoured Morne Steyn.

That move may entice the visitors to kick a little less in today’s game but any talk of a new era of Springbok enterprise is a tad premature. First and foremost the South Africans will throw some big bruisers straight into the heart of the Scotland defence, to test the home side’s spirit as much as anything else, as Seymour readily agrees.

“You know what you are going to come up against with South Africa. It’s not a massive mystery now. The physical side to their game is something they rely on and something they try to lead with. They’re going to hit you big, they’re going to hit you high, and you’ve just got to make sure you attack them in the right areas of the park so you don’t get embroiled in this arm-wrestle, which is what they want. They looked handy against Wales, they scored a good try off kick-return as well. With guys like Bryan Habana in the back-line you have to be wary that threats are going to come from anywhere. While they like to be a straight up-and-down team, they have the ability to go from one end to the other very quickly.”

No one more so than long-serving winger Habana who, at the age of 30 and with 93 caps to his name, looks every bit as hungry as he did when he first pulled on the famous green shirt way back in 2004. The flying machine poured a large bucket of cold water over Wales and Lions sensation George North last weekend when carving out one of the Springboks’ tries and he will do the same to Seymour if the Scot affords him as much time and space as Fukuoka enjoyed. Moreover, Habana has happy memories of Murrayfield, having scored a brace at the old ground way back in 2004 when the Springboks beat Scotland 45-10.

Seymour has always been a threat with the ball in hand but the Irish/American/Scottish flyer now needs to fulfil his defensive duties as well as he does the attacking part of the equation if he’s to fulfil his potential. After years of upheaval he wants to set up a permanent home in the Scotland Test XV and keeping Habana in his box this afternoon will be one small step in the right direction for this well-travelled winger.