SCOTLAND’s free-flowing attacking style was a delight to watch at times against Italy, and the five tries scored in the 33-20 win might well have been seven or eight, such was the home team’s domination for much of the match. Yet, while they may try to emulate the best aspects of that offensive approach against Ireland on Saturday, they will have to think twice before attempting to seize everything that resembles a scoring opportunity, according to Tommy Seymour.
The Glasgow winger and full-back Stuart Hogg are level on 19 tries at the top of the current squad’s international score sheet, and Ian Smith and Tony Stanger‘s shared all-time record of 24 looms larger every time either Warriors player adds to his tally. But no matter how much he would love to add to his total against the Irish, Seymour is well aware that patience and game awareness will be the key virtues at the weekend.
“We like to play rugby – we like our wide men to get their hands on the ball and exploit space,” he said. “It’s certainly something we’ll look to if the space and the opportunities are there. But it’s not something we’ll do at every opportunity, because they’re very good at making you think that there’s space there and getting you to run down a blind alley.
“We’ve got to be mindful that they’ll be trying to create pictures for us that they can close up and exploit. For us, it’s about trying to play in the right areas and look for space when it is available. You have to play tight to get the right to go wide. It’s the old adage – you’ve got to do the work up front. We have to do that first.”
England’s win in Dublin last week was an example of what Seymour meant. Yes, they found a lot of space out wide in their victory against the Six Nations champions, but only after getting the better of a lot of the physical battles.
“I think England did incredibly well,” the 30-year-old continued. “Tactically, they seemed to be on point and they put a lot of pressure on. But Ireland are one of the best teams in the world, one of the best-coached sides in the world, and they have some of the best players in the world.
“They’ll be on song this week and will be putting a lot of pressure on themselves to concentrate on this week. We know what’s coming and we will be prepared for it.”
The immediate threat
Preparing for that threat from Ireland, and dealing with it, will take up almost all the players’ time this week, and wistful musings about try records will be left to idle moments if they are indulged in at all. But there is a serious and useful side to the tussle between Seymour and Hogg as they close in on Smith’s record, in the sense that the competition between them can only be a good thing.
Smith got his 24 tries in just 32 caps earned from 1924 to 1933 – a strike rate of 0.75 tries per game that is unlikely to be bettered any time soon. Seymour’s 19 tries have come from 47 Tests, with his most recent scores being his hat-trick against Fiji in November. Hogg cannot boast the same economy, as he has taken 66 caps to get up to 19 tries, but at 26 he is four years younger than Seymour, who is sure that in the end he will have to concede defeat.
“He’s got a few years on me. Over the long run there’s not going to be too much competition. But we enjoy it now. Hoggy and I can have a bit of fun with it.
“We’re level pegging now. His second try was chalked off at the weekend, which was very unlucky for him because it was a fantastic finish, but that’s maybe given me a little bit of an opportunity.
“We have some fun with it, but the main thing is that we play well as a team and that we’re scoring tries, wherever they come from. If we’re playing the kind of rugby we want to we’re in a good position.”
It was Blair Kinghorn, the other member of the back three against the Italians, who won most of the plaudits by scoring a hat-trick and being named man of the match. With Sean Maitland set for a return, Kinghorn may have to bide his time against Ireland before being unleashed off the bench, but Seymour certainly would not begrudge the Edinburgh player an opportunity to enjoy more success.
“He played well, didn’t he? Obviously you want to be getting across for tries, so I’d have loved a try myself, but the really pleasing thing is we played some really good stuff.
“I can honestly say I’m chuffed for the guy. He played a brilliant game and took the chances he was provided with really well. He’s the first Scotsman to score a hat-trick in the Six Nations, so brilliant for the young fella to get an achievement like that and get in the history books.”