Sean Lamont: Discipline vital to end decade of French defeat

Blond ambition: It's February 2006 and Sean Lamont is all smiles at the end of the game having scored two tries in Scotland's last victory over France.  Picture: Kenny Smith
Blond ambition: It's February 2006 and Sean Lamont is all smiles at the end of the game having scored two tries in Scotland's last victory over France. Picture: Kenny Smith
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You can bet that when Sean Lamont started out his international career against Samoa way back in 2004 he didn’t have the faintest idea that 12 years later he’d still be worth his spot in the Scotland squad, with the utility back starting on the bench this afternoon.

He may have 103 caps to his name, but perhaps the most memorable of the lot came a decade ago against today’s opposition when a brace of tries from Lamont gave Scotland the last victory they tasted against France. Well, memorable is probably the wrong word to use in conjunction with the big winger.

“I don’t remember anything about that game except the tries,” Lamont says. “They all merge into one. I can’t remember the [2016] Italy or the Wales games either.

“The first try [in 2006] came on the back of a rolling maul that started just outside the French 22 – I was playing like a breakaway forward and I still am. For the second I came off my wing into the midfield and took the pass off Parksy [Dan Parks], or was it Shuggy [Hugo Southwell]? No, Shug was outside me so it must have been Parksy.”

With that much established, did he imagine for a minute, when walking off the pitch that day in 2006, that Scotland would go the next ten years without recording another win over France?

“Certainly not,” he replies with a look of horror. “It’s quite a shocking statistic really. We ran them close in the summer but it was still a loss. It’s not where we want to be or where we need to be.

“We’re a much-changed team, even from last year, and it’s just a case of sticking to it for the full 80. We’re notorious for switching off, just after half time, which is when teams seem to get a score against us. We run teams close but switch off for a second and it costs us, like in the England game.

“Every point matters and you don’t get many chances in a game to score, maybe four or five. If you squander them it’s difficult to get them back, it’s really difficult at this level: how many teams come back from a deficit to win comfortably?”

The veteran performer is a crowd favourite for his whole-hearted efforts on the field in whichever jersey he is handed, having played wing, centre and full-back. He is a Press favourite for his searing honesty, notably after Scotland performed woefully against Wales in 2011 and Lamont exploded into an expletive-ridden rant at his own team-mates that was entirely justified on the day.

He has a degree in sports science and a job offer as a strength and conditioning coach should he need it, although he doesn’t divulge where. Sean insists that brother Rory was the talented one, but the elder of the two surely has something far rarer than mere talent – Sean has endless enthusiasm and a desire to give the best of himself every time he steps on the pitch. That has surely contributed to his longevity?

“I have always looked after and listened to my body,” he says. “And there is always a little bit of luck involved. I had one big one [injury] on my knee but luckily it came right. You see so many talented players, like my brother, far more talented than me but injuries got him. So there is always a slice of luck, I think the big one is that the want is still there. As soon as the want goes… I just love the sport.”

Given that he is the only Scot in today’s squad who knows what it is like to beat Les Blues, what does Lamont pick as the key to winning today?

“Discipline and defence are big factors and starving them of ball,” he replies. “They are very good at ball retention and you give a team like France the ball and time to attack and they can be a real force to reckon with.”

Discipline and defence… and another two tries from Sean Lamont would surely do the trick.