Scotland rugby winger Tommy Seymour is hoping to maintain his winning record against Italy at BT Murrayfield today – but in a far less stressful manner.
In a 14-cap career Seymour has faced the Azzurri twice and on each occasion the result – in Scotland’s favour – has been determined by the final play.
We need to be clinical with the opportunities we getTommy Seymour
Back in 2013 the Scots won a quadrangular tournament match 30-29 in Pretoria thanks to a last-gasp try from Al Strokosch. Less than a year later, in Rome, Duncan Weir’s winning drop goal that edged the Scots home 21-20 was the final kick of the match.
“I have played a couple of times (against Italy) and it has been very nail-biting on both occasions. Hopefully we don’t go as far as that this year,” said Seymour, 26, who reclaims the place forfeited by injury having limped off against France in Paris at the start of the Six Nations.
This will be Seymour’s first trip to Murrayfield with Scotland since bagging back-to-back interception tries in November. First up, against Argentina, Seymour latched on to a pass from Juan Martin Hernandez to post the last of five tries scored by Scotland in a 41-31 victory. A week later it was a pass from Richie McCaw meant for Victor Vito that Seymour intercepted to run the ball home from 40 metres against the All Blacks and, for good measure, he also scored against Tonga at Kilmarnock to complete a rare hat-trick of Autumn series touchdowns.
But despite showing such keen anticipation Seymour isn’t willing to be pigeon-holed.
“I don’t want to cast myself as the guy who wants to go and try for interceptions all the time because that comes with as many risks as benefits. You get painted with that brush and defences start to exploit it.
“I don’t want to put us into jeopardy by trying a risky manoeuvre. If you come and spot something and it comes off then great but I’ll not be trying to create a little opportunity for myself.
“It is an easy talking point because of the way things happened in the Autumn but it is individual circumstances and there was an element of luck about that. You have to be careful about these things coming off. They were in matches side by side but I won’t be trying that in every game.”
With three other tries on his cv – against Japan (2) and France – Seymour’s strike rate is impressive.
But he is also aware of the fine margins that determine the outcome at top level and not just because those intercepts can be hit-or-miss.
So far Scotland have come up short by a single score against both France and Wales.
What has to be done to not only close the gap but come out ahead?
“It’s about being clinical. We’ve played very well in terms of our attacking rugby and we have shown flair and style. The boys want to get on the ball, make tackle breaks and give options.
“This weekend is set to be a record crowd for Italy at Murrayfield (surpassing the previous 60,708 in 2001) so we are playing a brand of rugby which the supporters are getting on board with, which is great.
“We need to be clinical with the opportunities we get as nine tenths of the job isn’t enough – we need to get over the line.
“The main thing is that we are creating those chances but we need to be patient and heads up about getting those opportunities and make sure we come away with the points.
“It’s international rugby so it’s small margins but fingers crossed the effort we have put in during training will push those fine margins in our favour.
“You see Italy’s performance at Twickenham when they got three tries and you look how close the game was after 65 minutes. They are not an easy team to score against.
“We have to perform for a full 80 minutes, it sounds a cliché, but you can’t go in half-cocked. You have to go in raring to go in and do the basic things in terms of the physicality and the breakdown – stuff they are very good at. They are also very passionate. You have to do the same thing, and even better.”
Seymour has also backed his Glasgow club-mate, Peter Horne, to come good at stand off on his BT Murrayfield debut after five caps on the road.
“I’m a massive fan of Peter’s, I play with him week in and week out.
“There is no bias from me – he’s a very intelligent footballer and has a great skill set.
“All of the boys at Glasgow and Scotland enjoy playing with him as he’s an attack-minded player. He also defends but he wants to play rugby the way people want to see it played. We need to take the pressure off him and give him options and if we play the brand of rugby which is set out for us then I’m confident Peter has the skill set to implement a win for us.”
That was echoed by attack coach Duncan Hodge who insisted remarks by Horne that he wasn’t “looking to set heather alight” shouldn’t be interpreted as meaning he would be inhibited in his approach, rather a consequence of switching from his primary role of centre into the playmaker role.
A former Scotland stand off himself, who won his only meeting with Italy in 2001, contributing 18 points, and also starring in the Scotland A team’s 18-16 victory over the Azzurri at McDiarmid Park, Perth, in 1995, Hodge said: “Pete is an effervescent character and that’s what he does.
“He’s confident, and it is a transition from playing most of his rugby at 12 (centre).
“Most of the skill sets are the same and a big thing for him will be seeing that picture, seeing how the game unfolds, and he’s got the skills to react.
“Depending what you want from a No.10 he ticks most of those boxes.
“The unfortunate thing for him in the last two years is that he hasn’t played No.10 because of Finn (Russell) and Duncan (Weir).
“It’s been great for him to have the last two weeks playing stand off.”