Scotland coach Matt Taylor bids to outfox former colleagues

Scotland coach Matt Taylor is fiercely proud of his Scottish roots despite being born in Brisbane.
Scotland coach Matt Taylor is fiercely proud of his Scottish roots despite being born in Brisbane.
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Matt Taylor may have been born in Brisbane, but he is in no doubt where his loyalties lie as Scotland prepare to host Australia in the final viagogo Autumn Test at Murrayfield tomorrow.

Taylor returned last summer as defence coach to a country which awarded him three A caps at flanker out of Edinburgh and Border Reivers between 2001-02 on the strength of having parents from Dunfermline. And, as Scotland look to bounce back from last weekend’s 28-0 defeat by South Africa by claiming a third successive win over the Wallabies, Taylor insisted: “I am extremely proud of my heritage. As I grew up, my uncle used to send me Scotland programmes and I also remember watching the 1984 Grand Slam win over and over. I’ve still got the video at home.

“All my family are Scottish and it just happens that my brother and I were born in Australia.

“Why, my kids love Scotland and see themselves as more Scottish than Australian!”

So Taylor’s passion cannot be doubted and a key element tomorrow will be how he outfoxes Australia’s attack guru, Jim McKay.

“I worked every day with the attack coach and understand his influence; conversely he probably knows me quite well and the systems I use,” Taylor added.

Then there is Ewen McKenzie, promoted to take charge of the Wallabies after spearheading Queensland Reds, again when Taylor was a member of the backroom team.

“I know Ewen well. He’ll have Australia very motivated and it will be in the front of their minds that they have lost the last twice to Scotland. I was still at the Reds when they lost to Scotland at Newcastle in 2012.

“Any Test match you lose, you are representing your country, (so) Australia will be really up for the game. Ewen will see to that. Ewen is very astute and always find different points to seize on.

“He motivates teams with different talks every week. It’s never the same spiel and I used to enjoy listening in, because he is so smart at pushing buttons and getting players up for the game.”

As for on the pitch, the Queensland contingent includes half backs Quade Cooper and Will Genia who have more than 100 caps between them.

“Whatever team has Quade Cooper, Will Genia and the locks (James Horwill and Rob Simmons) is going to be a tough team,” said Taylor.

“Quade is only 25 and has lots of improvement in him. Watching Quade after coaching with him for three years, you can see why teams become so stressed trying to defend against him.

“It is that speed of ball and the length of the pass that singles the Wallaby half backs out. It gives them such width in attack.

“What the Wallabies will do will probably be to try and stress teams out further in different parts of the field than the Springboks.

“As we saw, the Boks are very direct; they use the driving lineout as a real weapon. Australia will play off-the-top type ball and move it around.

“In the (Southern Hemisphere) Championship they were the highest passers. They play outside the second receiver and try to stretch teams that way. It will be a case of getting good width and good spacing for our defensive line to stop them.

“There will certainly be lots of tempo in the game, with quick taps and running from all parts of the field, but Scotland will be better prepared with the intensity of the Springbok game behind them.

“It is always the case in this period you are catching up a bit, as the opposition have been together for a couple of months.”

Someone else playing catch-up to a certain extent is back row Johnnie Beattie who is determined to repay coaches who have kept faith with him in an injury-hit season with his French club, Montpellier.

Says Beattie, who will overtake dad, John, in cap terms on his 26th appearance: “I came back from the South African tour with a damaged a.c. (shoulder) joint. I then played three games and tore a pectoral muscle eight weeks ago.

“Last weekend, coming off the bench against South Africa, was the first game I’d played in seven or eight weeks.

“So, it is really nice to be given the green light by coaching staff. I didn’t think I’d be asked to come back because I hadn’t played any rugby.

“To pick up in training the fitness you need and to get 30 minutes last week was a big vote of confidence.”

If Beattie understandably plays down any rivalry with his dad, the BBC radio presenter, then this member of a notable Scottish sporting family hints at a bright future as an agent once it is time to hang up his boots.

Brother of Jennie, the Scottish international women’s footballer previously with Arsenal, Beattie revealed that he was a conduit in her transfer to Montpellier FC.

“The president of the women’s football club was previously at the rugby club and he knew Jennie’s background and asked me about her when the team were looking for a centre back,” he explained.

“Jennie had come out to Montpellier with some football friends earlier in the year and, having spent a lot of time on the beach, the opportunity to move there was pretty appealing!”

Tomorrow, Beattie will link up with Kelly Brown and Dave Denton in the 13th different breakaway unit started by Scotland in 21 matches since the 2011 World Cup.

How they combine, in ensuring a better supply of quick possession, will go a long way to determining whether a hat-trick of victories over Australia can be achieved for the third time since fixtures between the countries began.

Skipper Kelly Brown is confident. “I started out at Glasgow alongside Johnnie, and Dave Denton also complements us very well,” he said when echoing warnings about the Aussie half backs.

“Genia and Cooper are outstanding players. If you sit back and give them time and space to play, they can cut any side to pieces.

“It is up to us to put their set piece and breakdown under pressure. If we slow them down and get some line speed ourselves, we will do well.

“The Australian half backs are very good players but nobody likes to play under pressure.”