New Scotland coach Vern Cotter goes into the Autumn Tests with a 75 per cent win ratio following victories in the Summer against USA, Canada and Argentina – all away from home of course – but a thumping loss to South Africa spoilt the unbeaten run in June.
On paper, that doesn’t seem bad, but the reality was that we struggled against all four, and while beating Argentina on their own patch is not easy, it has to be said this was a very weak Pumas side – very different to the one which competed so well recently against the All Blacks, South Africa and Australia.
USA were blown away last weekend at home to New Zealand, but we had problems against them and were lucky to win. The same went for Canada.
We conceded more than 50 points to the Springboks and that brought us crashing back down to earth. But this was an experimental squad which took on a physically demanding tour both on and off the park, and Cotter would have learned a lot from that experience.
This will be Cotter’s first opportunity to show the fans what all the fuss has been about. There won’t be many jobs where the employer will agree to wait a year after appointing someone before they work for them, so the SRU think he’s worth the big bucks.
After seeing what Scott Johnson had to contend with when he was keeping his seat warm, plenty would have had second thoughts on taking the job at all. Being Scotland’s coach has hardly been the most desirable of positions in recent times.
Is an overseas coach the answer to Scotland’s prayers? Will the team respond to his ways of doing things? He’s got a reputation for being strict but fair, but the banter of Scott Johnson, both with the players and the media, will not be as forthcoming under Vern Cotter, that’s for sure.
I’ve been in his company several times since he arrived and I’ve been impressed by the fact that he’s a listener, keen to engage himself with the likes of Andy Irvine, Jim Telfer and Ian McGeechan, and to learn from them.
But it’s all about what happens on the new hybrid pitch at BT Murrayfield this Saturday against Argentina and next Saturday against New Zealand, and also on the artificial surface of Kilmarnock FC when Tonga will try to achieve back-to-back wins against us.
This game will be the first ever international between two top-tier nations to be played on an artificial pitch.
My prediction? Probably what everyone is expecting – a big loss to the All Blacks, a narrow loss against Argentina and a narrow win against Tonga.
It will be interesting!