Graham issues rallying call
February 20, 2007
Scotland forwards coach George Graham believes his players are ready to build on their impressive performance against Wales last week when they take on a highly-rated Italian pack at Murrayfield this Saturday in the RBS 6 Nations championship.
However, he did concede the Scots will have to raise their game again, especially in the scrums, which is an area where the Italians have excelled in recent seasons.
The former Scotland prop said: "I thought we were outstanding last week in the set-piece - our line-out worked extremely well and our scrummaging was the best I have seen it for many a year - but by the same token we can't take it for granted that it's going to happen again this week.
"There is no doubt Italy will present us with a huge challenge. Over the last couple of years they have gone from being a really tough scrummaging side to being a really tough and well-organised scrummaging side.
"They didn't do particularly well in the France game at the start of the Six Nations, but they were very good against a big English pack last week - so that is obviously something we have to give some consideration to.
"There is obviously a lot more work to be done and the first building blocks were put in place out on the back pitches at Murrayfield yesterday afternoon, when we had a really good scrummaging session."
However, Graham recognises there is only so much that can be done during these last few days before a major Test match.
"There's that fine balance between doing too much which means the guys are knackered during the game, and not doing enough which means the guys are not properly prepared. So that's something I'm in constant talks with the players about. Its about me getting the right balance, luckily I've not been too far away from the mark so far - hopefully I'll get it right again this week."
Gareth Jenkins, the Wales coach, has made seven changes to the side which lost to Scotland last weekend, including the introduction of a brand new front-row. But Graham has refused to read too much into Welsh failings when trying to explain why Scotland were so dominant in that area when the two sides met.
"We can only play against the team that is put in front of us, but what I will say is that the scrum we played against last Saturday was the same scrum which shoved us all over the Millennium Stadium a year ago.
"Those Welsh boys are good players, I just think my guys beat them - they dominated them from start to finish. Hopefully that has given us the confidence to produce some more of the same this week."
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton