IN any well-oiled organisation, there are unsung heroes who do the hard work in the background so others can shine. In the Scotland rugby squad, Gavin Scott – the national team manager – heads up the team of worker ants who shift boulders so Gregor Townsend and his team can climb mountains.

In many ways it is a thankless job. If he gets something wrong there will be hell to pay, whereas if everything goes to plan then few people will notice. But Scott – a former hooker for Caledonia Reds, Glasgow Warriors and Scotland A, who also worked as an analyst for Glasgow Warriors and the national team – says he gets an enormous sense of satisfaction from making sure everything runs like clockwork.

“I’m not sure if anything stood out that meant I was suited to it, but I’ve certainly enjoyed the journey of doing it,” says Scott. “I’ve been manager for seven years and I’ve learnt a lot in that time, dealing with the pressures that coaches are under and attempting to make life as easy as it can possibly be so they can just do the best job they can with the players.

“They all coach in different ways and they want slightly different things in terms of the environment and culture they’re in. But they all still want the best for their team – to get the best team on the park and to prepare the best way they can. My role is to make sure they can do that in a calm and controlled manner.”

We talk a lot about World Cup cycles in terms of form and the fitness of players and teams, but in the background the planning is even more relentless. Scott has been working towards this tournament for the last four years, since even before the last World Cup was over.

“We had a delegation meet us from Nagasaki at Royal Grammar School in Newcastle when we were training there during the 2015 World Cup, so that was how far back the early planning went for the pre-camp to this tournament,” he says. “And we’ve been dealing with questions around the France World Cup already, little things around organisation and how we might like things to run in four-and-a-half years’ time. But you do get about a year when it’s not too much and then three years out it starts to build up again.”

This World Cup has been a different sort of a challenge to those he has encountered when Scotland have visited some of the traditional rugby strongholds in recent years. However, rather than being problematic, Scott sees this as a bonus because it means no stone has been left unturned.

“There are countries who have a reputation for being a bit last minute but here it’s completely the opposite,” he says. “We were asked what time we want lanes in a swimming pool booked about two- and-a-half years in advance, and you have to explain that we’re not really going to know that until pretty close to the tournament. But it speaks to the level of organisation that people put in to get it right on your behalf.

“Sometimes we’ll need to change plans because of something that happened in a game, so that flexibility is critical for a sports team, and when there are 50 of you moving about that can be a difficult thing.

“But we’ve been coming to visit Japan since 2015, ahead of the 2016 tour, and what we’ve seen is this real desire to accept people into their country. They want you to understand their culture and to like it, but they also want to learn a little about you and your culture. It’s been a great learning thing for all of us.”

David Barnes