John Barclay on intensity needed against Australia and inspirational Doddie Weir
|Autumn Test: Scotland v Australia|
|Venue: Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh Date: Saturday 25 November Kick-off: 14:30 GMT|
|Coverage: BBC One, Connected TV, online & the BBC Sport app & Radio Scotland 810MW|
I sometimes get asked what is it like in the dressing-room after a game like Saturday’s against New Zealand, a Test match that I’m guessing was great fun to watch and was great fun to play in while being brutally hard at the same time.
What is it like? You sit there for a while, normally hoarse, ridiculously dehydrated, a little bit faint, four kilos lighter than you were before and a whole lot more exhausted.
There are guys spread like debris everywhere. The place is scattered with bodies, some lying down, some sitting up.
I’ve known boys who managed to get their jersey and their shorts off, but then sit there in their pants for an hour. I’ve been that player. More than once.
You look down at your boots and you want to untie the laces and get on with the long process of getting into the shower and into your suit, but on occasion you can’t.
You think: “I need to take these boots off, but if I bend down I might get cramp, so I’ll leave them for now.” It’s like putting your alarm on snooze. Five more minutes. Then another five.
The day after is always great. I quite like the feeling of waking up sore. There’s a masochistic pleasure that a lot of us derive from it.
It’s weird, but I’d imagine a lot of players will know what I’m talking about. [Scotland coach] Gregor [Townsend] told us something that Jacques Burger, the Saracens and Namibia player, once said about what he missed the most when he was out injured. He missed the feeling of suffering after a game was over. You hate it, but you love it.
The recovery process helps when you’ve won a game. On Saturday, we didn’t manage to pull it off.
I can’t remember every game I have played for Scotland, but I won’t forget that one. Yet there is little time to dwell on it; we go again.
There’s a lot of pressure and a lot of opportunity against the Wallabies. Can we back-up the good stuff against New Zealand and turn it into a win against Australia?
It’s absolutely vital that we do.
They’ll be an angry team. Angry at what happened to them against England at Twickenham, angry at what we did to them in Sydney in the summer. I’ve seen quotes from their players saying that they are in a much better place now than they were in June, and having beaten New Zealand and run England a whole lost closer than the final score suggests then I can’t argue with that assessment.
Australia are an outstanding team, probably the most exciting attacking side in world rugby. They’re fast and furious.
We managed to take some heat out of their game in the summer and impose our pressure on them, a key factor in our win. The game plan switches from New Zealand to Australia, but the template remains the same – are we prepared to have the same intensity and physicality, are we prepared to put ourselves through it so much that it hurts?
That’s what we did against the All Blacks, but it didn’t give us the win. More often than not, however, that intensity and accuracy is rewarded with a victory at the final whistle.
I’ve got to touch on the post-match attitudes from the Kiwis. They are one of the world’s best teams, but being humble and respectful, and gracious in victory, is clearly very important to them.
I had a chat with Kieran Read afterwards. My two sons were running around our ankles at the time. At the dinner, one side sits on one side of the room and, for some reason, the other team sits at the other side. The New Zealand boys drifted over during the course of the night for a chat. Genuine stuff.
I have to mention Doddie Weir. He came into the camp on the Wednesday before the All Blacks game and we told him we were playing the game for him and donating our jerseys to his trust.
That was quite emotional, but when he came on to the pitch with his family before kick-off, it was just extraordinary. I knew it was happening, but I don’t think I was ready for it. There was a power in that moment that was unforgettable.
His grace and humility is inspirational. That’s the only word for him: inspirational.
He got up on stage at the post-match dinner. There he was, a victim of a terrible, terrible illness and he was making fun of himself, making fun of us, making everybody laugh. An incredible man.
Sunday brought news of Finn Russell’s exit from Glasgow Warriors at the end of the season. It’s been lingering in the air for about 18 months, but he’s taken the decision now and we wish him well.
He’s never made any secret of his desire to test himself in a different country. I hope they look after him, wherever he’s going.
I know what challenges you have to overcome when playing your club rugby out of Scotland. On returning to your club, you’ll get a quick “well done” and then you’re straight into meetings, training and a new game. The boys are back in Scotland resting-up, but it’s not like that sometimes when you play outside the country.
Six days after we beat France last year, I was playing against Treviso in the Pro12 in the driving rain in South Wales. Psychologically, you have to be ready for that.
That’s the job. There’s a mental shift required.
The Scarlets have been good to me. I’ve gone back a few times and they said: “We’ll put you on the bench.” They’ve looked after me.
I’ve gone back other times feeling knackered and they’ve had loads of injuries and no other option but to play me. They’re almost apologetic in telling me, but that’s the reality. They’re my employer. I have to front-up.
Finn was world class when we beat Australia in the summer and we’re all going to have to deliver the same kind of performance on Saturday. It’s one of the first things we said after the All Blacks game – we have to keep building, have to keep pushing on.
Controlled chaos and, hopefully, the win we’re all desperate for.
John Barclay was talking to BBC Sport Scotland’s chief sports writer, Tom English