Scotland assistant coach Nathan Hines admits the long-awaited Six Nations win in Rome has brought relief to the camp but no let-up in the pressure the players feel ahead of Sunday’s home match against France.
“Well, we don’t have you guys pestering us about losing nine on the bounce so yeah, obviously,” said Hines when asked if there was relief that the losing run in the tournament was over. “It was a bit of recompense, as they say in French, for all the hard work just to get a win. Building up to the first game we did not play as well as we could and in the second game we played pretty well. Obviously in professional sport wins are what counts so we are happy and relieved.”
But Hines, who played club rugby in France for Perpignan and Clermont Auvergne, is expecting a serious test from Les Bleus at BT Murrayfield.
“The pressure for us is to win the game, for us it is the same, for everyone else it is different,” said the former lock. “We were talking about not winning a game in nine, then it is ‘now you’ve won one you have got to win the next one.’
“For us it is about winning the game.”
Following a disappointing World Cup the French won their first games at home, both narrowly to Italy and Ireland, before slipping to defeat in Wales.
Hines is wary of talk about France being vulnerable as they adapt to new coach Guy Noves.
“The French national side doesn’t get much aid from the clubs. Guy Noves knows a lot about that because he was on the other side of the fence [as long-time coach of Toulouse] before,” said Hines.
“They’ve had limited time to work together and the longer they have together the more coherent and structured they will become. But you don’t get a lot of time to get structures in place, especially when you don’t get any help from your club team.
“They’ve got individuals who get them out of sticky situations and they’ve got power.”
Hines never experienced a win over France in his 77-cap career and it is ten years since Scotland last beat them. Asked if he felt this was their best chance in some time, he replied: “Obviously because it’s the game we’ve got to play, we can’t win games from ten years ago or a year’s time. It’s our only chance.”
Meanwhile, almost a year after a ruptured knee ligament ended his Six Nations and wrecked his World Cup dream, Glasgow centre Alex Dunbar is back with the national squad hoping he has used up his quota of misfortune for a while.
The 25-year-old’s recovery from the ACL injury came just too late to play any part in last year’s World Cup and a couple of subsequent separate setbacks have prevented him from pulling on a Scotland jersey since the home loss to Italy last February. A heavy blow to his collar bone and sternum led to another spell on the sidelines before a thigh problem picked up in the European Champions Cup clash with Racing 92 ensured he would miss the start of the Six Nations.
A couple of run-outs with his club, combined with an injury doubt over Edinburgh’s Matt Scott, has seen Dunbar drafted back into Vern Cotter’s squad this week and he dearly hopes his nightmare run is at an end.
“It has been frustrating,” he said. “A few people when I was coming back said bad things come in threes. So I hope I have the three out of the way now.
“I could do no more about it. Hopefully it is out of the way now and I can concentrate on the rugby.”
The former Annan and Selkirk player now has an opportunity to win a 15th cap in Sunday’s match and he added: “If it could happen I would be delighted.
“To be out so long and have aspirations of coming back and then being injured again, now playing well and on a little run I am concentrating on playing.
“It is no fun sitting on the sidelines or being injured. So I’ll keep trying and enjoy it.”
Dunbar has a reputation for being a physical, all or nothing, type of player, which may partly be a reason for the string of injuries he has suffered, but he knows no other way and will continue to approach every game with the same 100 per cent commitment.
“Once I got back to training and taking contact it was never something I was bothered about,” he explained. “If it happens [another injury] it happens and you just have to get on and try and do stuff.
“There was never anything at the back of my mind which was holding me back. I just chucked myself straight into it and hoped for the best.”