Six Nations: Tim Visser dismisses underdog tag

IF NOT yet favourites, Scotland will certainly go into an RBS Six Nations Championship match this weekend knowing that their higher-ranked opponents possess genuine fear.

That is what an exciting back three blending the speed and differing talents of Tim Visser, Stuart Hogg and Sean Maitland can do for you. Clearly, the Irish gameplan will revolve around stopping Scotland getting the ball to those three but there will be fear nonetheless about the damage they could do if given time and space.

But it does not stem only from physical talent. There is a confidence that the trio also share that has been manifest in the ebullient way in which all three have scored tries in their first Six Nations together. At 20, Hogg is a self-confident spring chicken of a player, for whom the path to the top has been relatively quick and straightforward over the past two years, while Visser believes that he and Maitland, born and bred in New Zealand and a Super Rugby veteran, bring a different psyche to the team.

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The big Dutch winger laughed at how the three were keeping an eye on each other’s times in training, and how he was enjoying the competition to lead the attack, and praised Maitland’s input.

“He is a very positive guy and that is something I would like to pride myself on as well,” he said. “Scottish people like to be underdogs and like to come from that angle. In Holland it is very much different. We can be perceived as arrogant but we are just very positive and like to think we can do stuff.

“That is something I have seen in Sean as well. He is very positive and far, far away from arrogant but he knows what he can do and what he can bring to the party. He believes in himself and the rest of the team and that is something we can all definitely learn from.”

Visser has scored five tries now in his first seven Test matches, against Fiji, New Zealand and Italy, while Hogg has three in 12 (also three in five Six Nations games) and Maitland one in two Test matches, and all three have been key figures in the creation of others.

At 25 and 24, respectively, Visser and Maitland also bring more maturity than most in their first Six Nations tournament, clear in the way the Edinburgh man warned against believing that Ireland’s loss of leading players rendered them easy prey.

“Ireland are traditionally a strong country in the Six Nations and have a lot of experience and talent. It looks like they have lost a little bit of that talent in terms of the players they have injured, but anybody who steps up for them will be full of passion and won’t be far off the mark.”

But then that Dutch confidence reveals itself again as he returns to the subject of how the new back three are keeping each other on their toes, and who really is the quickest.

With a laugh, Visser said: “Hoggy is definitely slowest, so the competition isn’t really there. I’m the fastest, though Sean is pretty quick.

“There’s not necessarily a rivalry between us, more banter, although we all wear GPS [monitors] during training so we can see what our speed is at and everybody keeps an eye on that… but Hoggy is definitely slowest.

“The atmosphere in the team has really changed coming back for the Six Nations. Because we want to move towards the same goals, it has been very encouraging and everybody has been encouraging each other.

“We are not getting carried away with one win because Ireland are much better in defence and it will be hard to break them down, but we know we have come a long way since the autumn and the progression we have shown, not just on the pitch but in training.” And that carries into a game for, if players are buoyed by the finishing ability of the men outside them, their eagerness to move the ball and faith in it getting somewhere lifts. That was seen, particularly with Visser, last season.

He added: “People’s perceptions in every area of the rugby field can be changed pretty quickly and we have shown that in our finishing ability. Having people like Hoggy and Sean Maitland in the back three means we can score from anywhere on the pitch.

“We now need a win to keep the momentum going and nobody is going to shy away from that, so we need to get the fundamentals right and that is maybe slightly disguised by the tries we have scored.

“Maybe these tries disguise the things we need to get right to beat better teams. But, if we do the fundamentals right on Sunday, we have a good chance of winning the Test match.”