Interview - forward thinking
Summer preparations for a Rugby World Cup are more akin to the time enjoyed by professional club coaches, boosted by a squad featuring nothing but the best a nation has to offer. Exceptional standards are the expected standard.
Having joined the national set-up just over a year ago, the summer as seen a welcome return to the extra time to which Assistant Coach Danny Wilson was accustomed during a successful three-year spell as Cardiff Blues Head Coach, which followed two years with Dragons (2010 to 2012) and two years at Scarlets (2012-2014).
“It makes a huge difference and gives me a first experience of having them more than just the week before a Test match, trying to get the balance right of what you can and can’t fit in,” said Wilson.
“In the club world you have so much more time through pre-season to embed things and then through your working weeks.
“International rugby is a very different challenge.
"In the Autumn Tests and Six Nations you say to yourself say ‘right, they’re coming in on Monday and a week-Saturday we’re playing a Test match against Wales’ and then you have even less time for the Test against Italy the following week.
“That’s definitely a different challenge but you’re working with the top-end players so there’s a quicker understanding.” Assistant Coach Danny Wilson
Wilson first worked with the group when they came together as a home-based unit for the opening autumn fixture against Wales in Cardiff, where he had spent so much of his recent and formative coaching career.
He had combined his terms with the Blues and Dragons with an impressive spell as Head Coach of Wales U20 – who finished third and second in the 2012 and 2013 Junior World Championships – so the international time-frame wasn’t new to him. However, the opportunity and capacity to stamp one’s own style on a squad remain comparatively scant.
‘Slowly but surely’, is how Wilson sees his progress, with injuries sustained during the Six Nations disrupting the flow of follow-on work from the autumn.
On one hand Scotland were without key individuals in key positions, however he now believes they are reaping the benefits of Test-blooded and hungry young players that grabbed their chance to supplant the injured men in possession.
Preparations for some began as far back as May, with those involved in the latter stages or knockout rounds of their respective club competitions arriving early July, just under three months from the tournament opener against Ireland in Yokohama.
The time with group is vastly different to the quick turnaround time necessitated by the international player-release periods around the Six Nations so the coaches have been eager to make the most of the extra time.
At this week’s press conference, Wilson gave an insight into how this could affect Scotland’s set-piece approach.
“It’s been good for me. There’s a chance to build relationships with players and spend more time in their company in the camps and more time on the training field,” added Wilson.
“There’s the chance to work on the fine detail and try and develop individuals as well as tactics. It gives you more time to play around with things and trial things in training.
“We came out of the Six Nations as number one at scrum time on our ball, which was a real plus, but we need to improve a little on opposition ball as we had a couple of games where we were under a bit of pressure.
“Lineout-wise on our ball we were pretty good – drive, lineout attack, drive-defence were all reasonably good – but we probably need to affect opposition ball in the air a bit more.
“What we want moving forward is a bit more balance to put a bit more pressure on opposition lineout in the air, as well as making sure we don’t give up what is our first-and-foremost, that sides don’t drive against us.”