Thursday 22 February 2018

'Stern Vern' will put old friendship to one side

Joe Schmidt alongside Scotland head coach Vern Cotter before last summer’s World Cup warm-up game in Dublin (Sportsfile)
Joe Schmidt alongside Scotland head coach Vern Cotter before last summer’s World Cup warm-up game in Dublin (Sportsfile)
David Kelly

David Kelly

While Joe Schmidt is looking forward to meeting up with his old Clermont mucker Vern Cotter for a coffee and chat, his fellow Kiwi lived up to the stereotype of 'Stern Vern' by refusing to indulge in such pre-match banter.

"We will meet up and shake hands," says Cotter, whose side are battling with the reigning two-time champions for a third-placed finish."

"We have coached with each other and against each other. I'm just worried about the game, so will leave our friendship to one side."

Asked about the suggestion that Schmidt and he may indulge in some pre-match banter concerning injuries and such-like, Cotter paraded his infamous 'yeux de glaces' - icy eyes - in non-committal reply.

"I won't enter into that," he dead-batted.

He was more indulgent in assessing the relative fall from grace of his former side-kick's Irish charges; in reality, Scotland out-performed Ireland in the World Cup and will seek to do so again in this tournament.

"It is fine margins," he offers. "Putting the number of points they did against Italy shows they are capable of playing very well. They are a big, young, bulky team.

"They are physical. Irish rugby has always been physical and I think with Jonny Sexton and Conor Murray running the show they have the core of how the team is directed.

"They are a smart team and a physical team and they are playing at home in the last game. It will be a game played with a lot of intensity, as it always is, so we will have to get our heads up, stay smart and try to apply pressure as long as we can and get results from that."

Cotter makes three changes from the side who defeated France in Murrayfield so impressively last weekend.

Duncan Weir replaces Finn Russell at out-half after his Glasgow team-mate was ruled out with concussion in last weekend's 29-18 win.

With Jonny Gray also unavailable after suffering a torn pectoral muscle against Les Bleus, Tim Swinson steps up from the bench to partner Gray's brother Richie in the second row.

Ryan Wilson also returns to the back-row in place of Josh Strauss, who drops to the bench despite a decent display against France.


There is eager anticipation that both sides may serve up a feast of attacking rugby, although Cotter is steadfastly trying to dampen down expectations.

"I don't know. No one game resembles another. Preparing is the key and then things will unfold. There will be plans that come off and some that don't.

"The team has always taken a positive approach to playing the game and that will continue. It is always easier to build off a victory than a defeat, although you can learn a lot from defeats.

"What I feel from the team at the moment is that we are trying to recover as best we can. They want to learn they want to get better, so that kind of thing is important. That's how you improve. You win some, you learn some. Isn't that the old expression?"

SCOTLAND- S Hogg, T Seymour, D Taylor, A Dunbar, T Visser, D Weir, G Laidlaw (capt), A Dickinson, R Ford, WP Nel, R Gray, T Swinson, J Barclay, J Hardie, R Wilson (Glasgow Warriors). Reps: S McInally, R Sutherland, M Low, R Harley, J Strauss, H Pyrgos, P Horne, S Lamont

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