Reaching Critical Massimo

On Monday afternoon the peace will be broken and two packs will crumple into each other. At the crush of the scrummage both Edinburgh and Glasgow will be fighting to gain as many inches of ground as possible. One man will be delighted whatever the outcome is. With a burst of glee Scotland’s scrum coach Massimo Cuttita tells me “there will be fireworks alright!”

In the build up to the first game of the 1872 Cup the former Italian international prop has been working with both sides on their set scrummage. “It has been a little bit strange” he admits “but I’ve been coaching both teams in the same way. I have not been hiding anything. They know my style so I haven’t changed anything because I work with them both every week.

“This game comes down to the mental. It is all about composure. Whoever cracks first will lose out. They have all been doing the same work and there are no secrets. This will be the first time this season that both teams know what they are going to get because they know how their opposition work. So far this season Edinburgh have scrummaged well and against Montpellier Glasgow showed what they can do. They went to France and they pushed them around, which isn’t easy.”

Barrel-chested but chirpy Cuttita is easy to listen to. I try to interject with a question about whether Edinburgh’s front-row is Scotland’s front-row right now but it has either fallen on deaf ears or is creased out of the way with a statement of his position.

“My job is with Scotland and for them all to be competing is good. There are no favourites because it is still all to play for. It is also not just about the front-rows. The flankers still have to push. Of course they need to get back to save a try, but with the way I work everybody is involved. It is a collective thing and they are all seen as the same.”

Of course there are those that have been looked at individually beforehand. ‘Project player’ Michael Cusack was brought up to Scotland from Doncaster on Cuttita’s recommendation. He is seen as a long-term option for the Scottish selectors. “Michael? I’ve worked with Michael for about five years. He is really doing well at Glasgow. He is playing a lot and that is putting pressure on Muzza [Moray Low], who has improved because of it. He came on on Saturday and showed he had an extra gear. More competition is helping everyone, I think.”

So will there be a bit of fizz and grit if Cusack faces up against Jacobsen?

“A lot depends on whether Chunk passes his Cog test [post-concussion cognitive testing]. It would be a good test for both. Chunk has a lot more experience and Michael has no international experience and very little experience at this level. He was playing in England’s second tier last season. It should be good.

“In general they are all improving. We now have Scotland back-up. I recently went down to see Dicko [Alasdair Dickinson] play for Sale and he is improving a lot. Ryan Grant, too, is improving. Jon Welsh. Glasgow now have two front-rows who can cut it. At Edinburgh Kyle [Traynor] and Jack [Gilding] have moved up. Lewis Niven is learning.”

Now you would be forgiven for thinking that there is a stretching here to say complementary things about all players as much as possible. How could they all possibly be coming on so much? For a man who spent sixteen frictional years engaging, though, the answer is simple. The answer is time.

“I now work in Scotland ten days straight. Then I have some off. There isn’t a day during those ten I’m not working. I will work Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, them all. For ten days. I didn’t have that before, but now I get more time with the players. Andy [Robinson] wanted it this way and it is ideal for me.

“I will work with whoever I can in Scotland. I speak to the likes of Eddie Pollock as I work with the Scotland Under18s before I work with Edinburgh and Glasgow. I’ll speak to Peter Wright about the U20s. I will do clinics and I will watch footage of club games. I can watch young guys like Colin Phillips and I can get out there all the time.

“That is the best for me. I’m a beast in the field. I don’t wanna be in the office!”

Here I understand the strangeness he spoke about earlier. He has the look of a man who has been through the mill but who has enjoyed it. He has his pockmarks; his scars; his legacy of aches and pains. He wouldn’t want to forget those. We both agree that there are more important things than rugby sometimes and he knows what it is like to get up at 5am for work, only to drag himself back through the door at 8pm. With all that experience –that time –he has learned a lot and his happiest moments are out on the grass playing or passing it on.

It would be strange because with such a mentality you can get caught up and involved with every player. So he won’t be at the game on Monday. He couldn’t be in that moment because he has helped nurture every player over time and they are going to tear at each other to walk over a ball. He has done the hard work with them all, and he hasn’t held back, but he needs time to analyse things at “the END of the game.”

He wants to enjoy the fireworks, but he wants to watch them over and over again.

Tags: , , ,

Dundonian Alan has played rugby all over the world for various teams including Dundee High School, Heriot's and the Scottish Club International. Now writing from London he covers all issues international and unreported.