HAD things panned out differently for Sam Johnson, he could still have been hanging around the Ipswich rugby club in Queensland, playing on a Sunday after a couple of nights prepping on the pop, and may even have ended up a carpenter like his big brother.

Instead, the Glasgow Warriors centre will next Saturday try to do a repair job on Scotland’s Six Nations season against Grand Slam-chasing Wales.

Not that Johnson – who would be winning just his fourth cap – is likely to be overawed by reputations or the opposition’s star turns, of which they have a few.

“Yeah, they do,” he agreed. “But if want a reference look at when Scarlets came to Scotstoun a few months ago.

“They had Jonathan Davies at 13 – and I am only speaking from a club point of view – but I think everyone expected the Scarlets to absolutely walk over the place.

“With 14 players we took them to town. I find it’s all mindset. Whoever hits harder, runs the longest for 80 minutes, is going to win the game.”

It hasn’t been an easy introduction to the international game for the 25-year-old, as he readily concedes.

“It started off as a blur and I was hanging out my a*** against Italy,” he smiled.

“It’s the occasion you have to get used to. It’s not just a game of rugby. Like, say, against France, that was my first away game. To walk out in front of 78,000 people and I am some kid from South East Queensland who used to muck around with me mates, to do something like that ... that’s just as much as the game itself.

“Like anything in life, it is all experience, isn’t’ it?”

Maybe it’s his Aussie upbringing that makes him back himself. That said, Wales are the team to beat, and no-one has managed that in a dozen Tests. Surely they’ll be favourites in the capital next weekend.

“That’s more for you guys to write about,” says Johnson. “This is our job, so you have to go out there and expect to perform because if you don’t perform you don’t get a job and you have to find a new job, don’t you?

“You just look at Wales now and we know the challenge it’s going to be. You have to be realistic. It’s going to be a huge challenge – Wales then England away. But we need to be aggressive out on the field.”

One the Scots might target is fly-half Gareth Anscombe, or then it might be

Dan Biggar, who came off the bench against England to shape the game and the eventual outcome.

Johnson already has an eye on having a go at them. “They kick a lot,” he observed.” Obviously Biggar’s more of a structured guy whereas Anscombe might play a bit more off-the-cuff.

“I think they were the top kicking team in November but whoever plays 10 for them they know their role, so we’ve just got to have look and see where we can ... because there’s only going to be two or three opportunities to score tries, so we’ve got to take them.

“Any team that rocks up, if you put them on the back foot and shock them, it’s ‘oh sh**, what are we going to do now?’ Defensively is going to be the key. Just getting off the line continuously and making them kick on our terms will go a long way for who wins the kicking battle.”

Asked if playing in fits and starts over the three previous outings had been frustrating, Johnson thought for a moment and then agreed, almost lost for words, something an upset Scotland coach Gregor Townsend wasn’t short of after the France loss.

“We copped a bit of bollocking from the coach. So far in these first few rounds I don’t think we’ve had a full 80 minutes as the results have shown.

“He’s a pretty relaxed guy. I wouldn’t say he was kicking and screaming but, like for Gregor, he was letting us know where we need to improve and everything like that. It’s probably the least happy I have seen him – deservedly so, I think.

“The French really slowed us down around the ruck. As a back, I was looking up and seeing space, but all it takes is that fraction of a second and then it’s gone. We just seemed to get caught on the back foot.

“I don’t think we kicked enough to turn their big pack around. It was a disappointing result. We’ve reviewed it and now we look forward to Wales next week.”

Johnson is a likely starter this Saturday, despite being hooked in Paris after just 50 minutes. As he puts it:“Just a decision the coaches made. Maybe they wanted two out-and-out ball players to run the Frenchies around that last 10 minutes”.

Probably a question for Townsend.

Nice sidestep …