CHAOS, panic and confusion. Boast on a job application form that these are the qualities you can bring to the party, and the chances are you will not be shortlisted. At least, in the case of most jobs.

When it comes to being a rugby coach, however, they are precisely what you need to help your players produce in the opposition. And his track record in the subject is what got Richie Gray, the former Gala captain who was one of the Springboks’ coaches at last year’s Rugby World Cup, a job on the national team’s coaching staff.

Not that Gray either filled in an application form or harboured any expectation of being appointed. But, when Scotland coach Vern Cotter invited him to come on board for the Six Nations Championship, he quickly accepted.

Having only signed on for two and a half days a week for the duration of the tournament, Gray knows that he now needs to make an impact almost as quickly. His title is defensive-contact specialist, which primarily means he deals with the breakdown: the aftermath of tackles, when the ball-carrier has to release the ball and both teams have a matter of seconds to get in there and seize possession.

It’s not only about being fast enough to get there and strong enough to rip the ball away from your opponent. It’s about decisions: the number of players you commit, and whether they opt to compete for possession or simply try to slow down the opposition’s recycling. It’s about quick thinking and hard work and above all attempting to screw up your opponents’ plans.

“You’ve just got to be constantly about mentality and work rate - and just go for it,” Gray said yesterday after a Scotland training session at Murrayfield. “Try and make it as difficult to play against as possible. Chaos, panic and confusion - that's what you have to create for 80 minutes, which is hard work and takes a lot of effort.”

Given the short contract he has, there is a limit to how much Gray can impart to the players he is working with. But, having studied the Six Nations from the outside before joining Cotter’s coaching team, he is convinced that relatively minor improvements can make a big difference.

The fact that Scotland have lost their first two games, against England and Wales, by six points and four points respectively might suggest that if they get a little better against Italy they can win in Rome a week on Saturday. Nonetheless, Gray expects

a tough battle, and is well aware that he is in an environment where every team is striving to get better all the time.

“We’ll have to up the game, definitely. I think game by game anyone can take anyone on their day. It's fine, fine margins if you look at the close scores in the first two rounds, even the Italy-England game for the first 52 minutes before the [Jonathan Joseph] interception try.

“It's going to be some Test match a week on Saturday. We just prepare, look at ourselves and it will be a case of play by play, minute by minute and just get us through that game the way we want to play it. Obviously we'll analyse them, we know they've got some good players - some world-class if you look at [Sergio] Parisse. But we'll just look after ourselves and do what's right for Scotland.”

When the South Africans beat Scotland in the pool stages at the World Cup it was the third time Gray had coached against his own country. No matter how calm he appeared both before and during that game in Newcastle, he admits now it was an extremely difficult thing to do.

“You'd be an absolutely bloody liar if you said it was easy playing against your own country, because it's not. It's one that you have to win, because it's a pride thing. I come from a small town, Galashiels, and if Scotland were to beat a team I was coaching I wouldn't be able to walk down the street for the next year and a half.

“Professional coaching has changed. It's the same with football - you're with a team and you do your best for the players in that team.

“But doing it with your own players in your own country is different, and that's no disrespect anywhere, else because being given the honour to work with any country is huge. You give 100 per cent wherever you are, but the emotional aspect has got to be different with your own country. You wouldn't be normal if you didn't think like that, and Flower of Scotland has taken on a whole new meaning. It’s good to be back.”