Rugby World Cup: Samoa specialist Sean Lamont passes on wisdom to bruised Scotland squad
It’s not often that the strength and conditioning coach takes centre stage at the top table of a Rugby World Cup press conference but then Scotland’s current incumbent in that role is rather well known.
Sean Lamont is Scotland’s third most capped player with 105 and, in the kind of neat twist the rugby gods often play, won his first, 50th and 100th against Samoa, the team Scotland must beat in Kobe on Monday to keep their World Cup alive.
With the bulk of strength and conditioning done during the summer, Lamont’s role here is to keep the players ticking over in that department, while also being on-hand to dispense his vast bank of international rugby experience when called upon.
Another apt little fact is that Lamont’s last cap came against Japan in Tokyo during the 2016 tour and the now 38-year-old veteran of three World Cups in 2007, 2011 and 2015 has been happy to be available to the players this week as they deal with the aftermath of Sunday’s 27-3 crushing by Ireland in Yokohama.
“One of the things I can bring is that I have been here before, I understand how they are feeling,” said the Perth man, who had two spells at Glasgow Warriors either side of stints at Northampton and Scarlets during his long and illustrious career.
“It wasn’t the performance we were looking for [against Ireland], regardless of it being a World Cup, you don’t ever want to put in a performance like that while playing for Scotland.
“We have seen these things happen, what we need now is a reaction because there is still everything to play for. There are still three games left and we need to win every one of them.
“We are not dead in the water, there’s still plenty to play for and for me it’s about bringing that energy.”
Looking back at the dark times he occasionally faced being part of a losing Scotland a long way from home, Lamont said: “You can beat yourself up and analyse. I used to do it myself as a player, you would have a bad game and you would have a sleepless night.
“You pick out all the ifs and buts. But it’s gone, we need to focus on Samoa. They are a passionate nation, the games in recent times have been damn close and they are a big, physical team.
“We know exactly what’s coming. They are a nation of warriors.”
On that quirk of earning his three landmark caps against the same country, Lamont said: “I always enjoyed playing Samoa myself, all the Pacific Island teams because they’re all so confrontational aspect.
“They love the physical aspect and I was a pretty physical player myself, so it was always a real battle of physical wills. I enjoyed it and I think the guys will on Monday as well, it’s a really good contest, and they have got a good team.
“They’ll see us as like a wounded animal after that Ireland game and they are going to come at us.”
Lamont said he has sensed something stirring within the squad as this week has progressed. “You probably don’t know for sure but there’s a feeling,” he said.
“You get the atmosphere from the guys around here. It was a royal boot up the ass if you like. It happens even when you play well but it’s not really what you want.
“The fact that it wasn’t what we wanted at all is probably a bigger boot, knowing that you can’t take your foot off the gas. We’ve always been like this with Scotland, we’re always either up or down, we can’t afford to coast it with any opposition. Least of all in a World Cup.
“Looking back to the 2011 World Cup [in New Zealand, when Scotland failed to progress for the only time], you look at the pool games there and we just sneaked past both Romania and Georgia. That’s the thing, we can’t afford to do that from here on out.
“We had a shot for a good clean win at the weekend and we missed it, so we know. The World Cup’s totally different, you saw it with the lesser teams, Uruguay and Fiji. There’s no minnows in this World Cup because teams get their players for so long everyone’s level goes up.
“We know what’s coming at us this weekend and we have to be spot on.
“Every game in a World Cup is pressure. Every game for Scotland is pressure. We generally deal with this during every Six Nations. Nobody wants to not perform for Scotland, it’s a massive thing.
“We’ve got a load of passionate guys, we’re a nation that generally punches well above its weight if you look at it, playing population and everything. We just need that reaction this on Monday.”