Defence coach Matt Taylor fronted up, to use the rugby lingo, to express confidence that Scotland will make the necessary improvements for the visit of world champions New Zealand to BT Murrayfield on Saturday evening.
The weekend’s 44-38 win over Samoa in the first Test of the autumn series was marred by the concession of five tries – Scotland scored six of their own – to spark concern about what the All Blacks would do when confronted with a similarly leaky rearguard.
Taylor took his share of the responsibility and expressed disappointment with the defensive display. After the game Stuart Hogg said he expected Gregor Townsend’s assistant to “unleash hell” and Taylor hinted that some strong words had indeed been forthcoming.
“I was happy that we won but any time, particularly when I’m in charge of defence, and you are losing five tries at Murrayfield, you are not going to be happy,” he said. “I was disappointed knowing that we are playing New Zealand this week. But I’m looking for a big change in terms of that, and that’s what we have to do.”
The Samoans were particularly effective exposing Scotland around the ruck fringes Taylor admitted that he took the lapses personally.
“Yes. Any professional coach is disappointed. I take a lot of pride in what I do, representing Scotland,” he said.
“I said to the players today that when people come to the games to watch Scotland play at home they see a lot of themselves in the players and shipping five tries at home isn’t good enough.
“Unfortunately sometimes my family cops the brunt of the disappointment. I get a bit short really, not as easy to talk to. I’ve got slightly better over the years.
“But we’ve got another game this week. We’ll review the weekend, we need to be better and then focus everything this afternoon on New Zealand going forward.”
As expected Scotland will be without tighthead WP Nel for the rest of the series with a fractured arm and have also lost lock Tim Swinson to a hand injury and Rob Harley, who injured a knee in training last week. Newcastle tighthead Jon Welsh has been drafted in as back-up for Zander Fagerson and Simon Berghan.
“Whenever you lose a number of players who are front-line players it’s a challenge, but it’s an opportunity as well and that’s how we’re looking at it,” said Taylor.
“Everyone has injuries, so we’re not going to use injuries as an excuse. The next person’s up and you’re representing your country, so the people who are chosen will do the best they’re capable of doing and they’re representing their country so we expect them to do well.
“Jon is very experienced. I know him well. He’s very good and a well liked member of the squad, so everyone was happy to see him this morning. He’s got a lot of experience and he’s done well in the [English] Premiership.”
Even if it is against the most challenging opponents in the world game, Taylor is happy to have another match to go straight into and look to make amends from the failings against Samoa.
“The good thing about it is that we’ll be a hell of a lot better this weekend,” he insisted. “But we’ll need to be because we’re under no illusions that unless we defend really well we’ll come second.”
Saturday will be the 31st meeting between the nations and the latest chance for a set of Scotland players to make history and beat the All Blacks for the first time. Since 1905 the record stands at won none, drawn two, lost 28. Taylor pointed to Ireland’s breakthrough victory over the world champions in Chicago a year ago.
“I think it’s a motivation. Like anything you haven’t been able to achieve you are striving to achieve it,” said Taylor. “You have to look at Ireland. They were in the same boat not too long ago and they had close results and close results, then they managed to win there didn’t they in the USA?
“I suppose from our point of view we had a reasonable close result against them last time [a 24-16 home loss in November 2014]. So we’re going to have to play well, we’re going to have to be at our best.”
Taylor senses a heightened intensity in camp.
“Definitely. I could tell already with the guys coming in,” he said. “When the calendar was put out the All Blacks game was probably the game that everyone focused on.
“Certainly this morning, we hadn’t even had a training session and you could tell that the guys were very focused already. So again we’re looking for that intensity and focus to be brought into the weekend’s game.”