Sport

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Vern Cotter wants Scotland to embrace Six Nations nerves

Vern Cotter will leave his role after the tournament has concluded
Vern Cotter will leave his role after the tournament has concluded

Vern Cotter believes the butterflies in Scotland's stomachs can help his side soar when they take on Ireland on Saturday.

The Dark Blues head coach confessed his team may have to shake off some first-night nerves when they open their RBS 6 Nations campaign at Murrayfield.

But he believes the tension he has sensed around the squad means his team have their minds firmly focused on shooting down Joe Schmidt's men.

"It's an exciting start," said the Kiwi, who departs at the end of the tournament.

"Ireland have just beaten the All Blacks, they've beaten Australia and South Africa. These are not one-off results.

"Consistently they're a good team, so we get the chance to measure ourselves against them.

"I can feel a nervousness within the group. They know it's a big game. They're ready to roll their sleeves up and have a go.

"I think being a little bit nervous means you're sharper and more on edge. You need that. You need to be wary of the opposition. Especially against these guys.

"We need to be sharp. We need to be able to adapt. They'll have plays we haven't seen, we need to adapt to them."

But regardless of Cotter's thought, Scotland have every right to be apprehensive ahead of their opening clash.

It is 11 years since they started the tournament with a win, while they face an Ireland side who they have beaten just three times since the tournament expanded to six teams in 2000.

But those facts have done little to dilute the confidence generated by the Scots' autumn displays, where they ran Australia close ahead of comfortable wins against Argentina and Georgia.

The added mix of some fine European performances by Glasgow and Edinburgh has only ramped up expectations but now, according to Cotter, the time has come to deliver on potential.

He said: " We've continually been trying to improve. That's the only thing you can do.

"The guys have a vision for the Six Nations. Whatever vision you have determines your behaviour.

"There are no guarantees in sport, we know that. But that desire we've seen for the last two seasons is still there.

"Can we win the whole thing? I think the trap is every year that Scotland get talked up.

"We are realistic. We know which teams are ranked ahead of us, we know what the rugby hierarchy is at the moment. It's up to us to change that."

To do that, Cotter has taken a couple of gambles with his team selection.

Glasgow hooker Fraser Brown has been given the nod over 103-cap Ross Ford, while Stormers centre Huw Jones returns despite having sat out two-and-a-half months of action with a foot injury. Josh Strauss also comes in after a slow start to the campaign.

But the coach reckons he has all the ingredients he needs if his men are to upset one of the pre-tournament favourites.

"It's a team that had a bit of time together in the autumn, although we're still without WP (Nel) and Ally Dickinson," he explained.

"The midfield pairing did well for us, the back three have been playing well. The two Gray brothers and the loose forwards give us a mixture of defending their line-outs and carrying the ball forward, putting a bit of speed into the game, especially around the ruck.

'Greig Laidlaw and Finn Russell will run that show, so that's the plan.

"Fraser is very good defensively and close around ruck time. We know Ireland go to one-pass or two-pass plays and we need to be robust around that area.

"He also carries well, as does Josh. He has really kicked on since November.

"Ireland move you around. They play a great game of chess. The idea is not to give them what they want. It's up to us to be able to function."

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