SCOTLAND under-20s coach John Dalziel is a wily old dog so when he said in the immediate aftermath of his team’s historic victory over Australia at the Junior World Cup that he was disappointed with the performance, we knew his words needed to be taken with a major pinch of salt.
With another mighty challenge looming over the horizon, when England provide the opposition in four days’ time, it was vital that he put the brakes on any runaway feelings of euphoria which are bound to accompany this afternoon’s extraordinary events at the JP Stadium in Salford near Manchester.
Dalziel and his coaching team have done a magnificent job in instilling a sense of belief into the age-grade set-up after years of humiliation at this level [it was just four years ago that they were losing 67-12 against the same opposition in the same competition]. This Australian team defeated New Zealand last month, and contained a number players with Super Rugby experience – but the Scots showed them no respect and were deserving winners.
It must have been a proud moment for the coach, but he was determined to keep a lid on things by insisting that he would have the players analysing the game and picking holes in their own performance on the coach ride back to the team hotel.
“I’m really happy with the win but the big thing is that I am actually pretty disappointed with the performance, so the work will start on the way back on the bus when we’ll review it and start kicking on to England,” he said, with a deadpan expression.
“It’s all about the win. You don’t beat Australia every day of the week, and it’s the first time ever at this level. The boys are making history this year [having now beaten both England and Australia for the first time ever], but when we watch this back we will be hugely disappointed about a lot of the unforced errors we made in attack. We are an attacking team, we want to play rugby, so we need to cut out the individual mistakes, and sort out some of the decision making – which was pretty hairy at times.”
“It’s usually a big score [against Scotland] in the first game until we get acclimatized, but we came here confident this year. Everyone had us as underdogs but we felt we could win that game, and the boys probably didn’t need any more belief but we’re delighted to get what we came for,” he added, on a slightly more positive note.
“It was really tense at the end and the boys had to dig deep. Australia had a very strong scrum at the end which put us under pressure and we were working so hard defensively to turn them over it was tough, and then having to scrummage as well, so we ended up having a few loose connections in there and didn’t clear the ball, which forced us back into it. But, in terms of the whole game, I thought we showed a lot of character. Barring a couple of errors in the first half, I thought we were the dominant team.”
“The scrum and some of our exits made it interesting, but the boys put in a huge shift. The first game of the tournament is always hard, especially with the [muggy] weather and some of the training they have had to do in the last four days, and I think we have got huge, huge improvements to make.”
Looking ahead to the England game, Dalziel hinted that man-of-the-match Darcy Graham may be a doubt after suffering a head-knock, and a few other players are also causing concern, but he insisted that he is not overly concerned about something which is clearly out-with his own control.
“Darcy is a great little player and a great guy to work with as well. He took a head knock just before it, so to score that try was unbelievable. He’s going to be a key man for us so we hopefully we can get him dusted down and back into it during the next couple of weeks,” said the coach.
“We’ve paid the price a little bit with a few injuries but we’ve got a good squad here and maybe three or four guys to come in fresh for the England game, and they’re the guys who will boost the energy.”
“Plus, a few of the guys were early injuries so hopefully they will come back in good condition and with a bit more of an idea of what the tournament is about.”