Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Jason O'Halloran sees plenty of promise ahead for Scotland

Scotland assistant coach Jason O'Halloran has confessed it may take another two years before the current Dark Blues squad hits its peak.

Vern Cotter's side kick off their RBS 6 Nations campaign at home to Ireland on Saturday with expectations once again soaring.

The performances of both Glasgow and Edinburgh in Europe have raised hopes the Scots can finally make their mark after a decade and more of Championship sorrow.

In recent days former internationalists Jim Telfer, Andy Nicol and Alan Tait have all claimed Cotter's squad are the closest thing the country has had to the side which last triumphed back in 1999, when the tournament consisted of just five teams.

But attack coach O'Halloran has preached caution after admitting Scotland are far from the finished article.

He said: "This team will ultimately be at it's best in a couple of year's time when we get more guys up around that 50-cap mark and grow that leadership culture.

"Those are flattering comments [from Telfer, Nicol and Tait] but it doesn't give us any points when we start against Ireland.

"What it does is give us in terms of combinations is real confidence, which is crucial for the trust element you need in these big games.

"But it won't give us a five-point start on Ireland, so it's of no real tangible benefit unless we perform really well."

O'Halloran joined Cotter's back-room staff ahead of the 2015 World Cup but will depart the national set-up when Cotter steps down this summer.

The Scottish Rugby Union has decided Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend offers better hope for the future, a move that has left the current incumbent disappointed.

While Cotter is heading to Montpellier, O'Halloran will head in the opposite direction to Townsend, joining Dave Rennie's new Scotstoun coaching team.

But he believes Cotter can justifiably claim to be leaving behind a team stronger than the one he inherited.

"I'd like to think the guys have improved quite a lot in our time in charge," he said. "They can definitely still be better. There are aspects of their catch and pass under pressure which are going to have to be good against Ireland, so that's one aspect we continue to stress.

"But our work rate off the ball and out attacking mindset is a lot better.

"If you look at the try Ali Price set up against Georgia in the autumn, we had four players in support of that line-break tells you a lot about the mindset of our attack now.

"The excitement and intensity the guys brought was something that was crucial to our autumn Tests.

"The boys just want to go out and express themselves. If we can have that again for this campaign we won't die wondering."

Saturday's Murryafield opener will offer the 16-strong Warriors contingent in Cotter's group the chance to gain revenge for the three bruising losses they have suffered against Guinness PRO12 and Champions Cup rivals Munster this season.

The Limerick men boast the likes of Conor Murray, Peter O'Mahoney, CJ Stander and Simon Zebo who should also feature for Joe Schmidt and O'Halloran insist lessons have been learned.

"Composure in the crucial moments and having a collective understanding of what we want to achieve when it really comes to the crunch are probably the key learnings we can take from the Munster games," he said.

"Their ability to see out games in the last 10 minutes is really impressive and the quality of their defence through out.

"Ireland will be the same so we need to make sure we look after the ball but when we get opportunities to score points, we take them.

"They are an outstanding team. Beating the All Blacks as comfortably as they did in Chicago just tells you about how great a football team they are."


From Belfast Telegraph