Assistant coach Mike Blair has admitted that a scathing rebuke from former national captain Peter Brown had been “tough to take” as Scotland look to get their World Cup preparations back on track against France at BT Murrayfield on Saturday.
Skills coach Blair, who has a record 85 caps for a Scottish scrum-half between 2002 and 2012, was responding yesterday to a letter by Brown printed in a national newspaper, who won 27 caps between 1964 and 1973, in which the man known as ‘PC’ issued a stinging charge sheet in the wake of last Saturday’s 32-3 dismantling by France in Nice.
“The proud ownership of a Scotland rugby cap has again been devalued. Are professional players no longer capable of personal motivation?” Brown wrote in a letter to the Times.
The former No 8 and captain, now 77, who kicked a famous conversion to land Scotland one of their only two post-war Calcutta Cup wins at Twickenham in 1971, said he and “team-mates” were “horrified” by claims made by the coaching staff last week that the players had not been psychologically fired up enough for a match which unfolded as a shocker from start to finish.
“They are tough words to take,” said Blair as the Scots seek redemption for the Nice nightmare on home turf against the same opponents on Saturday afternoon
“He [Brown] knows what it’s like to pull on the jersey for Scotland. What I will say is that it is better that happened in the first warm-up game of the World Cup rather than at the World Cup.
“We were aware that the guys weren’t going to be at their absolute peak of their game but we are looking to be peaking once we get to the World Cup.
“There were obvious disappointments that were plain to see by everyone but as we go through we expect to see significant improvements.”
Greig Laidlaw takes back the No 9 jersey and national captaincy as he wins his 72nd cap. The Clermont-Auvergne scrum-half wasn’t involved in Nice but defended the players from accusations they had let the jersey down.
“That’s certainly not the case. The group are tight-knit. I’ve been involved in performances that have not gone to plan before and it’s for a number of reasons,” said Laidlaw.
“We’d probably rather it happened last week than going into a World Cup. We’ll take it on the chin and whether that be how we trained all week or how we travelled, we need to look at all of that for away games.
“But this week is not an away game, we’re home at Murrayfield and we simply need to concentrate on that and make sure we get the next 80 minutes right.”