Vern Cotter (Gallo)
London - Vern Cotter has not shirked
controversy nor his duty to get the message over to his Scotland charges that
they had to toughen up to achieve Rugby World Cup success.
He brought in foreign-born Scots, made them
all march up a mountain and now a big peak looms when Scotland face Australia
in the World Cup quarter-final on Sunday.
Since he took over as Scotland's coach in
May 2014, the 53-year-old New Zealander has known that not everyone would agree
with his decisions, including his team selections.
"That's their right, isn't it?,"
he said. "Everybody has got an opinion. We are just focusing on what we
think is the best thing to do to move forward. I don't expect everybody to
Cotter knows about determination.
He played for Counties Manukau in New
Zealand and for French clubs before becoming coach of Bay of Plenty in the New
Zealand National Provincial Championship.
He was Crusaders forwards coach when they
won the southern hemisphere Super 12 championship in 2006 and went from there
to take over Clermont in France's Top 14 the same year.
They finished second three seasons in a row
before Cotter could claim a title.
He switched from the heights of Top 14 to
the lower levels of the Six Nations with Scotland in 2014.
Cotter said he knew it would be "a
long hard trip" to the World Cup.
He sought a mixture of
"battle-hardened" and "new talent" in a bid to reinvigorate
a Scottish side that missed the 2014 Six Nations wooden spoon with a last-gasp
drop-goal to beat Italy.
But Scotland lost every game in this year's
Six Nations, including a defeat in the finale to champions Ireland - a side
coached by Joe Schmidt, Cotter's former assistant at Bay of Plenty and Clermont.
Ireland won 40-10 at Murrayfield and Cotter
said of the result: "There were things that were brought home with brutal
So Cotter took his pre-World Cup squad to
the French Pyrenees in June.
Eric Blondeau, who worked with France's
special forces, talked to them about handling stress. French commandos led the
Scottish squad up a 1,800 metre mountain.
"Vern and the coaches said they want
to make us comfortable in the uncomfortable situations," said 2.1 metre lock Richie Gray of the boot camp.
"I wouldn't say he is radically
different to other coaches but he is very focused on bringing us together and
making us remember we are playing for our country."
Cotter took his revolution to the World Cup
Backrow Josh Strauss and prop Willem Nell
were born in South Africa. Zimbabwe-born David Denton also speaks Afrikaans.
Tommy Seymour was born in the United States and Sean Maitland played for New
Zealand's Under-19 and Under-20 teams.
Blair Cowan, a late replacement for the
injured Grant Gilchrist, is also Kiwi-born.
The most contentious move was bringing in
John Hardie, who qualifies through a Scottish grandmother but who only arrived
in the country in July.
Former Scotland and British and Irish Lion
prop Peter Wright said that choosing Hardie over John Barclay was an
But second place in Pool B with three wins
and impressive performances by Hardie have won over the doubters.
expects Scotland - who failed to get past the pool stage in 2011 - to beat
Australia but a braveheart performance will bring Cotter, whose contract has
been taken through to 2020, more credit.
"Overall Scotland are going in the
right direction and Vern Cotter has done a very good job," said Japan's
coach Eddie Jones after his side's 45-10 pool loss to the Scots.