Cotter’s cul­ture takes root as Scots move for­ward to­gether

Coach’s meth­ods backed by leg­endary Telfer Pas­sion for the shirt raises morale af­ter Six Na­tions

The Daily Telegraph - Rugby World Cup - - Sport Rugby World Cup 2015 - By Richard Bath in Glouces­ter

When Jim Telfer was re­cently asked about Vern Cotter, Scot­land’s great­est coach paid the Kiwi the ul­ti­mate hon­our: the Scot­tish coach­ing leg­end com­pared Cotter to him­self.

Both are hard men from ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, rea­soned Telfer; both are rugged for­mer back-rowers who do not suf­fer fools gladly, know what to call a spade and the im­por­tance of main­tain­ing an aloof­ness from their play­ers. Both have taken sides with patchy records and turned them into win­ners. “He re­minds me of me,” chuck­led Telfer once he had fin­ished list­ing Cotter’s virtues.

Be­ing Scot­land coach oc­ca­sion­ally means see­ing your team come off sec­ond best, but Cotter was sur­pris­ingly san­guine about Scot­land’s Six Na­tions per­for­mance this year, when they lost all five games.

“We did lots of good things dur­ing the Six Na­tions and we know where we went wrong and how to fix it,” he said. “This is a tal­ented, hum­ble group of play­ers who are work­ing hard and it’ll come good.”

Af­ter a re­volv­ing door which has seen a host of coaches try and fail, Scot­land have lit­tle choice but to trust in Vern. The New Zealan­der, for his part, gave up one of the most re­ward­ing jobs in club rugby at Clermont-Au­vergne to join Scot­land and re­cently sig­nalled his long-term com­mit­ment to the cause by sign­ing an ex­ten­sion to his con­tract. He has set about try­ing to change the whole cul­ture of Scot­tish rugby ahead of this World Cup, lean­ing heav­ily on the way it is done back in New Zealand. At Thurs­day’s cap cer­e­mony at Glouces­ter cathe­dral, where Scot­land’s play­ers were pre­sented with their caps in public, they were shown a video mon­tage of some of the great Scot­tish play­ers of the past.

It was, said the con­tro­ver­sial im­port John Hardie, pe­cu­liarly mov­ing: it gave a sense of what it means to play for Scot­land. “Ev­ery day Vern re­minds the squad how much it means to rep­re­sent your coun­try and the this­tle,” Hardie said.

Cotter’s ap­proach is straight out of the All Blacks man­ual, where val­ues such as legacy and her­itage are cen­tral to ev­ery­thing they do on and off the pitch. The mes­sage has been low-key, but has had a pal­pa­ble ef­fect.

“From the time I was a kid play­ing at White­craigs and GHA it was al­ways a dream to play for Scot­land but you al­ways fo­cus on the job in hand,” said the Glaswe­gian prop John Welsh. “But at the cap­ping cer­e­mony for per­haps the first time I felt what it re­ally means to play at a World Cup for Scot­land. Ryan Grant said he felt the same.

“We have a pas­sion­ate team here, ev­ery­one is so proud to be Scot­tish. That’s a big part of Vern’s cul­ture and he’s con­stantly fo­cus­ing on that. At the leav­ing din­ner, for ex­am­ple, we were pre­sented with dried this­tles, a kilt and a kilt pin. It was a fan­tas­tic mo­ment, sec­ond only to the time I got my first Scot­land shirt and my first cap. It was very, very emo­tional. Ev­ery­one got their own in­di­vid­ual hand-picked this­tle – I know mine will stand tall on my man­tel­piece for the rest of my life.” Cotter’s at­tempts to build an esprit de

corps have been helped by Glas­gow’s Pro12 suc­cess and Ed­in­burgh’s Euro­pean Chal­lenge Cup cam­paign, which largely oblit­er­ated the mem­ory of the mis­er­able end to Scot­land’s Six Na­tions.

In­spi­ra­tional: Scot­land coach Vern Cotter

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.