Johnson says Cotter won’t be a distraction

 Scotland coach Scott Johnson is confident the presence of his successor Vern Cotter in the build-up to Saturday’s opening Autumn International against Japan won’t distract his side.

Australian Johnson will oversee Scotland’s November campaign, which also includes matches against South Africa and the Wallabies and the Six Nations before ‘going upstairs’ to a director of rugby role and handing over coaching of the national side to Cotter in June.

Currently in charge of French club Clermont Auvergne, New Zealander Cotter has joined Scotland’s backroom staff this week to have a look at the set-up ahead of the Japan match at Murrayfield.

Johnson insisted he’d no issues about conflicting messages, saying: “Of course it is good to have Vern here. He is part of the plan for going forward and he’s part of the process.

“We’re in this together for these next 22 months ahead of the (2015) World Cup and it’s important that he is here and it is important that the squad sees that he’s here,” Johnson added.

“He will have conversations with me but he won’t have any involvement with the players out on the training pitch.

“We are all big men and this is the right thing to do. Vern doesn’t technically start until next year and he has another master right now. But it’s important that he understands where the squad is and gets to know the players.

“It allows for a smooth transition.”

Scotland finished a respectable third in the Six Nations but then suffered defeats by Samoa and the Springboks during a four-nation pre-season tournament in South Africa where they did beat European rivals Italy.

Johnson awarded 10 new caps in South Africa and two of those players –wing Tommy Seymour and lock Tim Swinson — come back into the side in place of leg-break victim Tim Visser and British and Irish Lion Richie Gray, on the bench, respectively.

“We haven’t included too many new faces for two reasons,” said Johnson. “Firstly: availability. The second reason is that we want to try to understand where the squad is and figure out who needs to start going forward. We’ve got a bigger plan and it’s not just about this game.

“So the team we’ve selected is the perfect balance for us. We want to start the series well but to also allow folk to showcase their wares.

“For the likes of Tommy Seymour, this is his chance with Tim Visser being out. But it’s only a chance. No-one has a divine right to start.

“He did really well against South Africa in the summer but by his own admission didn’t do that well against Italy in his second game. However, his regional form is good — he is there on merit.

“As for Swinno, he is getting his reward for a fantastic summer tour. Richie has had a few niggling injuries so giving Tim the jersey allows us to manage Richie’s situation a little better.”

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