Gregor Townsend’s side are heavily odds-on with all the major bookmakers to win at Murrayfield on Saturday but the national coach knows that the result will determine whether this has been a positive or negative campaign for Scotland in the eyes of most observers. Victory would give Scotland three wins out of five and a likely third-place finish. Defeat would place them on the debit side and stir up some serious grumblings ahead of the Rugby World Cup. Fear of failure can eat into the human psyche but Schoeman says it can also be turned into a positive and Aaron Walsh has been an asset in this regard. The New Zealander is a mental skills coach and has been working with the squad since the autumn. Schoeman believes it has helped and that they are ready to embrace the weight of expectation this weekend.
“It’s a very good thing, it’s nice to have pressure,” said the prop. “We have a great guy, Walshy, who works with us mentality-wise, and a lot of it is about fear of failure, so that’s good. But, no doubt, we take confidence in what we are going to produce and do, especially on the training pitch ahead of the Test match this weekend against Italy. We respect them, because they are going to be emotional and up for it, but we know there is a lot of pressure, which is a massive responsibility and an opportunity to be on it every moment, every contact and every set-piece. They’re a very good team with some very good individuals as well who can create something out of nothing. The way they play with passion, the way they clean, the way they tackle…and they have it in them as well to win matches. They’re not far off. We are going to have to be very clinical in all aspects of the game this weekend.”
Prior to arriving in Scotland, Walsh was with the Chiefs in Waikato but his experience extends beyond rugby and he worked in major league baseball in the United States, and hockey, football and cricket in New Zealand.
“He’s our team motivational and mental guru and you can do individual work with him as well,” added Schoeman. “It helps massively. If you think about it, the mental swings in a game, in Test rugby especially, are massive. It’s not just a team, it’s 23 individuals and management as well, and he does exceptional work with the guys. It’s about helping us to grow and be better. Our connection and cohesiveness is something so special. We always say we’re not far off but we always have to produce.
“He has a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge in that area. He has experience with certain individuals that he refers to and you can see the benefits and the things it helped them to overcome. Some in rugby, at the Chiefs and the All Blacks, and he’s helping us massively. He’s a credit to the team. Everyone’s bought in and they’re like sponges, taking things on board.”