Scott Johnson: Scotland are the side no one wants to play

We are underdogs, but this is a derby and derby games are different

The Thames was spilling over its banks outside the Scotland team hotel yesterday, the car park flooded. It forced Scott Johnson to take a delayed final training session indoors and possibly helped dampen down any fire and brimstone his side might have brought south with them.

There was no whipping up Scottish sound and fury from the Australian on the eve of his first game as interim coach. Quite the opposite.

"Passion will only get you so far," said Johnson. "It may get you off to a good start but in the middle there's a core part of the game that's got to be logical as well. You will get chances and sometimes passion overrides the skill and you let yourselves down. There's this very fine line. This game will be won in the core period when the passion runs second and the skill takes over."

His reasoning was echoed by Sean Lamont, the old head in what is a young backline. "Keep calm," was Lamont's suggestion when asked what advice he would give to those around him in blue.

Scotland are second favourites by a distance this evening and not only because they will step out in a venue where they have not won for 30 years. It would have been easy to seek refuge and comfort in a call to arms but Johnson believes Scotland arrive at Twickenham with greater threat than for some time, possibly even back to the days when victory on the old enemy's turf was not a distant memory.

Stuart Hogg, Tim Visser and the New Zealand-born and raised debutant Sean Maitland give Scotland genuine pace across the back three. Hogg and Visser troubled New Zealand in the autumn, Visser scoring two tries.

"We made too many errors against New Zealand but we also showed our potency in attack that says we might be able to score some points," said Johnson, who received a good-luck text from Andy Robinson, his predecessor, yesterday. Scotland were beaten by Tonga in their last autumn fixture, compared to England's trouncing of the All Blacks, and finished bottom of the Six Nations heap last year. Johnson believes his side have little to lose, so much so that others will not relish playing Scotland.

"We are the side that no one wants to play and that's a pretty good place to stay. They will be fearful of the fact that we have got people that can do some things, a back three that can go the length of the field. If we get off to a good start and the boys get some confidence we can scare this championship. It opens up our avenues to punish sides. Having speed is a luxury and we have definitely got that."

Johnson has had minimal time to write his own game-plan since taking over from Robinson for what is, in effect, a very public job interview. It means that Scotland have adopted a straightforward approach – win the ball and get it to the fliers in the back three.

"We have simplified a few things," said Lamont. "It's no frills but it's something we think will be effective. We are happy being underdogs. England have got to be on a high after New Zealand and we have to beware. But it is a derby and derby games are always different."

Johnson compared the start of the tournament to the early rounds of a fight, all cautious jabs and wary circling, but he will encourage his side to revel in it. "I'm trying to get a squad together that are grown men and make manly decisions," he said. "The analogy of war and sport has always offended me. I say war is life and death, sport is life. This is living. This is a great place to be. We will look back at our lives when we're 70 or 80 and say what an opportunity this was to live a life like this. I want them to enjoy it."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
film
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
News
peopleWarning - contains a lot of swearing
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project