Johnson calls for better defence

Date published: June 22 2013

Scotland coach Scott Johnson has called for his side to improve their tackling ability after defeating Italy 30-29.

Scotland coach Scott Johnson has called for his side to improve their tackling ability after defeating Italy 30-29.

Since taking over during the Six Nations, Johnson has been critical of his side's physicality at the contact area.

“I have been going on about it for six months, go look at any of my quotes from January and they will be the same as today,” said Johnson.

“If we are to improve then we need to give the tackle area more attention. We play really good rugby when we get it right, the quality of some of our work on attack is outstanding.

“But our tackling… it's a physical thing, we need to learn to back-up, we need to be in the best condition we can possibly be.”

Scotland finished their time in South Africa with a last-gasp victory thanks to Al Strokosch's 80th minute try, following up a strong performance against South Africa the week before.

Despite trailing at the death, Johnson insisted that he ranked the performance over the result and that the weary condition of his squad contributed to their struggles.

“I said before, and I said to the boys, I won't let the scoreboard dictate how I feel about the game,” added Johnson.

“Last week I was incredibly proud of the team (in the 30-17 defeat against South Africa). I thought we were the better team but did not get the result. This week we let ourselves down in areas we are trying to take pride in.

“There are fundamental reasons why. We are battered and bruised, but the fact is that we have to acknowledge it was not a good performance.

“I am proud of the fact that we managed to find a way to get ourselves out of trouble. That is the positive, but we have to look at areas – the penalty count, the scrum, the set-piece, defence – areas in which we try to take pride and did not do well.

“I am not walking away from the fact that we have to do things to improve areas of our game and cannot accept that as a standard.”

It was a general feeling echoed by captain Laidlaw, who was happy to have been given the chance to win the game after the hooter had gone in an ill-disciplined performance.

“We talked about the bar being set last week and we wanted to nudge it up,” he said.

“We are disappointed at the performance but last week was a good performance and we were beaten. This week we did cross the line. It took us 80 minutes but we did it.

“From the players' point of view, we are delighted to win the game. The goal was to end the tour with a win and I am delighted we have done that.

“I always felt we were not going to get beaten. If we stopped giving away penalties I felt that we were penetrating them easily and the message at the end was just 'keep the ball, keep the ball'. They were losing numbers and eventually we wore them down. There was no panic.”