With a reputation as a hard task master and astute tactician, Scotland’s new interim forwards coach Dean Ryan has inevitably earned comparisons with legendary grand slam guru Jim Telfer.
Ryan appears bashful at the mere suggestion, insisting: “I have done nothing in the game that ranks beside Jim, but I am my own man, pretty straightforward, very honest and accountable to the people I work with.
“If that is a similarity then I hope I can be half as effective.”
As a step in that direction, ex-England No 8 Ryan revealed that he sought the advice of Telfer’s nephew, Carl Hogg, whom he worked with at Gloucester, when deciding whether to accept an invitation from head coach Scott Johnson to undertake a 12-week assignment.
“We spoke about the whole thing,” he said. “There are two parts: what happens to Scotland going forward and the choices they make? Also, what do Scotland need in the next 10 or 12 weeks?
“I talked to Carl about the potential and decided there were enough lights going on in the right column to attract me.”
Ryan, 46, player/coach at Newcastle when they won an English Premiership with a string of world-class Scots, believes there is another generation eager to taste success on the international field.
“I don’t know the people here yet, but I guarantee they will want to compete when they put on a Test jersey and do the best they can,” he said.
“That is the attraction to me – how can I help them? How can I create the environment to give them the best chance to be the best they can? And I am sure I am going to meet some guys who are right up there with the best guys who have gone before. I like working with people. I don’t like hands removed, computer-based judgements.
“Coaching is a mix of telling people and asking people then having to say this is what we are doing and going off and doing it. I don’t mind whose idea it is.
“I don’t like vagueness. I don’t like theories. I like consensus about what we are doing.
“How that comes across to people, I am not really worried. People see strong leadership as dictatorial and not listening. I don’t agree. People need to know where they are going.”
Ryan’s four caps include a Murrayfield meeting with Scotland under Clive Woodward, but even that winning occasion was bittersweet.
“My dominant memory of the Calcutta Cup is that I was dropped the week after,” he said. “I chose to go for a pushover try and Woodward wanted to spin the ball. We had about eight scrums and got there but he didn’t think I fitted with his philosophy.
“I thought of the game ‘this is quite fast’ and I was playing at Newcastle and wanted to play safe whereas Clive wanted to ping things around. I remember the game but more for the week after. I still think I was right.”
Ryan shrugs aside the fact it could be strange wearing a thistle in the red rose garden in three weeks.
“England will be well prepared, full of confidence,” he said. “We are in a period of change that can work for us. We have to get some foundations. There is no point in turning up in Test matches with emotion. Emotions disappear quickly. It’s a tough time for Scottish rugby but we can turn that into a positive.
“It doesn’t have to be banded up in nationality. I am focusing on a group who are going to represent their country.”