Skipper Greig Laidlaw believes Scotland must to stop their hearts ruling their heads if they are to make a success of their World Cup campaign.
The Dark Blues scrum-half admits being handed the captaincy for England 2015 was the greatest honour of his career. But the Gloucester half-back says he cannot afford to let that pride cloud his judgement as the Scots prepare to take on Japan at his club’s ground in their Pool B opener on Wednesday.
Laidlaw admits he and his team-mates have made mistakes – most notably during their RBS 6 Nations whitewash earlier this year – after allowing the emotion of playing for their country to affect their decision-making.
Now with the help of a sports psychologist, the 29-year-old has spent time focusing on the important aspects of his game – while crucially leaving the patriotic head-rushes behind.
He said: “It’s an easy job getting the guys motivated when you come to a World Cup. It’s an easy job when you play for Scotland in general because it’s such a great honour. But sometimes with Scotland you actually have to take everything that goes along with playing for Scotland away and just concentrate on the rugby. That’s something that has helped me.
“I’ve done some work with some people that has helped. I sometimes get wrapped up in the emotion because I love playing for Scotland. It’s about trying to take the emotion away from it, especially at the start of the game and purely concentrate on skill set and mindset.
“Now I try not to get too excited in the changing room before games because ultimately you are just wasting energy. I’ve tried that during our four warm-up games and found it really helped. It’s about staying nice and calm and focusing on the shape, contact and skill set.”
The former Edinburgh man insists Scotland cannot afford to drop the terrier-like spirit which the Dark Blues are famed for. But he believes they do have to try harder to stay calm when it comes to the crunch.
“The key thing is having that focus at vital times,” said Laidlaw. “We still need the passion. We still need to be aggressive and show our warrior spirit from our Scottish roots.”