Seymour | On the Wing
What does it take to score a try? Is it an art or a science? One man who’s well-placed to answer those questions is Scotland and Glasgow Warriors’ wing Tommy Seymour.
Seymour began his international rugby career at BT Murrayfield, scoring two tries in Scotland's 42-17 win against Japan during the 2013 Autumn Tests. Since then he’s gone on to earn 46 caps, scoring a total of 19 tries along the way.
This puts him in fourth place in Scotland’s all time top try-scorers list, just behind Ian Scott Smith who scored his 24 tries between 1924-1933, Tony Stanger (24) and Chris Paterson (22). It’s a tally to be proud of, but Seymour is very much focused on the here-and-now rather than his place on the records list.
“It’s not something that really sits on my mind. For me it’s more important to be able to measure the impact I have on a team and whether I’m valuable to the coaches and players around me more than anything else. The stats are pleasing - I’m not going to say it’s not a nice thing and would I like to improve on that? Yes, absolutely I would, but it’s not something that I’m going to base my career around or look back on with regrets if I don’t do certain things. As long as the coaches and players around me are happy then everything else is a bonus.”
For all that he’s not keeping count, it’s hard to look at Seymour’s career without reliving some of those try-scoring moments. His first experience of crossing the whitewash in the Six Nations came in Scotland's agonising 17-19 loss to France at BT Murrayfield in March 2014.
His fourth try for Scotland then came in the opening match of the 2014/15 season as Argentina were defeated 41-31. He followed that a week later with another, increasingly familiar, wonder interception try against New Zealand, and scored again when he collected a crossfield kick from Finn Russell against Tonga a week later, to complete the series with a third try in three Autumn Tests.
The list goes on, right through to his hat-trick of tries he scored in the 54-17 win against Fiji in November. So is it something you can train for, or is it all spontaneity?
“You practice your set-piece moves and we practise a lot of phase shape as well so there’s a lot of stuff that looks like it’s relatively unstructured - and it is to a certain degree - but we’ll still have our patterns and our way of playing that will manufacture opportunities within a game,” he said.
“Out-with that it’s about being able to read a game, see where opportunities are and get the ball to the space when it's available.
“You leave it up to individuals as well to make sure they expose that space. Guys like Hoggy can do that and they end up putting guys like me that doddle around next to the side line away for tries. It’s not much more complicated than that really.”
Seymour’s partnership with Stuart Hogg on the back line has been a productive one and Hogg currently sits just behind him on the all-time list with 18 tries. Their years of playing together for Glasgow as well as the national side has resulted in what almost looks like a psychic bond, each being able to anticipate what the other can do on the pitch. Seymour says that the two of them are good friends away from rugby as well as enjoying a great working relationship.
“We started at Glasgow at the same time and Hoggy’s got a ridiculous amount of rugby ability,” he said. “I’m fortunate to be able to play outside a guy like that because as a winger you’re dependent on the guys beside you.”
“On the field it’s years of combining and realising what works for the other person and how to involve their skillset in certain things
For all the thrills of scoring tries, there are times when life on the wing can be lonely. Seymour says that coaches emphasise the importance of not letting games pass you by, but sometimes the conditions can have other ideas.
“The weather can be a factor on how involved you get,” he said. “On bitterly cold, rainy, windy evenings it can be hard to throw a ball around so the likelihood of it going out wide is going to be less. You’ve just go to try and get involved where you can.”
Since signing for Glasgow Warriors ahead of the 2011/12 season, Seymour has become a fan favourite and reached the team’s centurion club in April 2017. It’s clear that the city and the club mean a lot to him and he talks about how the club has developed in the time he’s been there, both in terms of results, facilities and fan-base.
“I’ve been fortunate to feel like I’ve played a part in the transition that’s gone on with the club,” he said. “It’s gone from strength to strength and I think we’ve been fortunate with the coaches we’ve had and the player groups we’ve had involved, we’ve managed to put Glasgow in a great position and I think the club is thought of quite highly in the league.
“The fans should take a lot of pride in the support they’ve given and there have been certain away trips that Glasgow supporters definitely out-muscled the home support. We’ve even managed to pinch some football fans over to our side and it’s such a family-orientated game now as well.
“I absolutely love Glasgow - it’s somewhere my wife and I are incredibly happy and feel very fortunate to live, and with the birth of my son there as well it’s a nice token for the rest of my life to know that he was born in Glasgow.”
Seymour will be back in the east for Scotland’s home Six Nations fixtures and he’s under no illusions as to how tough the opening fixture against Italy will be, pointing to the upturn in success for the two Italian pro sides and the nation’s team’s improved performances under Conor O’Shea.
“Italy have incredibly passionate players, you can see the pride that beams off them when they pull on that jersey,” he said. “We know they can score tries and they have some outstanding players.
“With it being the first weekend of the Six Nations that tends to raise the level even more so from our perspective we’ll be ready for a hard-fought Test match.”
Seymour featured in all but one test at the 2018 Six Nations, sustaining an injury in Scotland's historic Calcutta Cup win at BT Murrayfield which ruled him out of the following round in Dublin, before bouncing back and starting in Scotland's win against Italy in the final round. It’s a tournament he holds in high regard.
“The Autumn Tests are always great to play in – you get the chance to play against sides you don’t play against normally so there are varying styles and tactics and experiences but in the Six Nations there’s a different edge, because the international scene is unlike any other,” he said.
“There’s so much national pride and every team seems to raise its level and wants to be remembered as a winner. It’s got a massive audience and it’s hugely competitive. For me, it’s the biggest rugby tournament in the world.“