Scots look to war hero for help in mind games
LIAM NAPIER IN EDINBURGH
Scotland has hired a renowned psychologist this week in an attempt to instil the belief they can secure an unlikely upset over the All Blacks in Edinburgh.
Former Special Air Service (SAS) soldier Floyd Woodrow, one of the youngest men ever chosen to serve in the elite regiment and a holder of the UK's second-highest award for gallantry - the Distinguished Conduct Medal - has been called in to help motivate Scotland players before Monday's test, the first of the All Blacks' European tour.
Scottish players on the receiving end of a 49-3 pummelling two years ago at Murrayfield, spoke post-match of being psychologically beaten and overawed before kick-off.
Coach Andy Robinson is now taking pre-emptive measures to avoid a repeat.
"We've had Floyd Woodrow working with us. He joins us again on Thursday," Robinson said yesterday.
"Two years ago a lot of these players played against New Zealand and they experienced the ferocity in the tackle contest and the turnovers that occurred with four tries being scored from them."
Woodrow, who is also a motivational speaker, has worked with the Welsh Rugby Union and English cricket academy and previously linked with Scotland in the final week of last year's Six Nations.
He's also been involved with the struggling Edinburgh and Glasgow teams for the last six months.
Neither stint with Scotland caused any radical transformations and one suspects Woodrow will need all his expertise if he is to inspire Robinson's men to their first victory over the All Blacks.
That's not all.
After handing No 8 Kelly Brown the captaincy for the first time and making five changes to his injury-plagued team - who defeated Australia, Fiji and Samoa in June - Robinson openly discussed not letting his players be on their own in the lead-up to the clash with the world champions.
If his men were going to beat the All Blacks for the first time in 107 years - they must bind as one.
Sitting in the RBS bank in St Andrew Square it was hard not to feel Robinson had taken an inspirational line from the movie Braveheart.
"Belief has to be shared through the team," Robinson said.
"It's not allowing anybody to get isolated. They've got to be together. We take this challenge on as a team. You don't take it on in ones and twos. We understand we have to have a very physical mindset."
Not even William Wallace could have said that better.
"We know what the history is," Robinson said. "The key to that is to go out and stand up against New Zealand, who are the best team in the world.
"We've got everything to gain going into this game. We have belief in the players and our approach to how we are going to keep the game simple.
"It's about controlling the start and controlling the scoreboard in that first 20 minutes."
Robinson was, meanwhile, sweating on the availability of talented lock Richie Gray, who had to undergo a fitness test on his ankle.
"We knew it was going to be a three-week injury. We expect him to train fully today. I'm not going to put anybody out there who can't be at 100 per cent in terms of their physicality and their attitude."
Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Sean Lamont, Nick De Luca, Matt Scott, Tim Visser, Greig Laidlaw, Mike Blair, Kelly Brown (captain), Ross Rennie, Alasdair Strokosch, Jim Hamilton, Richie Gray, Geoff Cross, Ross Ford, Ryan Grant. Reserves: Scott Lawson, Allan Jacobsen, Kyle Traynor, Alastair Kellock, David Denton, Henry Pyrgos, Ruaridh Jackson, Max Evans.
What would you rate as a fair price for a mediocre seat at the Rugby World Cup final next year?