Monday 18 March 2019

Scottish debutant Johnson expects Ireland to bring pressure

Scotland's Sam Johnson keeps Italy's Luca Morisi at bay. Photo: Getty Images
Scotland's Sam Johnson keeps Italy's Luca Morisi at bay. Photo: Getty Images

Sam Johnson enjoyed a stress-free debut against Italy - but he expects it to be a different story against a wounded Ireland next week.

Australia-born Johnson - who qualifies for Scotland through residency rules following four years at Scotstoun - put in an assured display as he took the step up to the international game in his stride in a 33-20 triumph at Murrayfield.

The 25-year-old was cheered on by his parents, sister and niece after they jetted in from Queensland to catch his big moment.

Johnson admits he may have struggled to keep his nerves in check had he been thrown in front of the sold-out 67,000 crowd that cheered Townsend's team on to a bonus-point win in their Six Nations opener when he first stepped off the plane from Down Under back in 2015.

But he never missed a beat, confessing his only concern was making sure he did not hit a bum note when standing up to sing in front of his team-mates after the match.

"I'm pretty happy," he said.

"The opportunity has finally arrived and it was a privilege to finally run out there in front of everyone and sing the national anthem.

"I was more nervous about singing the karaoke after the match. I was definitely sweating about that. It's a bit of an initiation ritual but it should be fun.

"As for the game, getting an early touch always helps you settle into the game and to express yourself.

"That's the first cap out of the way, now we'll go again this week and see what happens.

"Did I feel comfortable from the start? I think that's probably an age thing. If it was me when I first came here I'd have been pooing my pants.

"But when you get older and a bit more experienced you try to take your opportunities in your stride, so that's what I did."

The challenge will be far greater when Ireland make the trip to Edinburgh next weekend looking to get back on track after Saturday's loss to England.

"Ireland are second in the world, so next week will definitely be a big step up," admitted Johnson.

"I get a big kick out of these challenges though.

"The atmosphere from the crowd will help the team. It will be a 67,000 sell-out again against Ireland, I'd never dreamed of playing in front of a crowd so big.

"I've never experienced anything like Saturday. It sent tingles down the spine.

"We're here to win the title. It's obviously not going to be easy but if we can get up over Ireland then confidence will be high. We'll see how we go."

Irish Independent

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