John Hardie Interview: Scotland gave France a real scare - They’ll take confidence from that

John Hardie, pictured with Heriot's Rugby coaching colleague Ben Cairns, is looking forward to Scotland-Ireland
©Heriot’s Rugby

John Hardie knows that Sunday’s Guinness Six Nations match against Ireland will be a “challenge” for Scotland, but he believes they will be “up for it” and that it will be another cracking contest between two sides who meet later this year in the Rugby World Cup.

Hardie, the New Zealand-born player who qualified to play for Scotland through family connections and earned 16 caps, now resides in Edinburgh after ending his professional career following a spell at Newcastle Falcons.

The 2015 Rugby World Cup back-rower still has a lot of friends in and around the Scotland set-up and, like most people north of the border, he is really enjoying the brand of rugby Gregor Townsend’s men are playing just now.

They sit second in the Six Nations table heading into round four and have risen to number five in the world rankings.

Ireland are the Six Nations leaders and the world's number one side for a reason though and have won the last seven games versus the Scots.

The two sides will also clash in Paris during this year's World Cup having both been drawn in Pool B alongside South Africa, Tonga and Romania.

Hardie, now 34, told TRU ahead of this weekend:  “Ireland are one of the sides that have a flow to their game, every player knows what they are doing and what they are trying to achieve.

“They are cohesive, they are powerful and they can play in a number of different ways, so it’ll be a challenge, but I think Scotland are up for it in terms of where they are at as a team now. It should be another great match.

“I’m an avid watcher of the Scotland team and I have enjoyed watching them of late. They have been going really well.

“The way they are creating opportunities has been excellent and they’ll just have been frustrated that they missed a couple of those chances against France last time out.

“However, France are one of the best teams in the world and Scotland gave them a real scare, so they’ll have taken confidence from that.

“The Scottish defence looks very patient and well-balanced and they are doing really well in that area. Their rugby is a good brand and I’m enjoying watching it.”

Stuart Hogg on cusp of 100 caps: “He fully deserves it, he is one of the legends”

On Sunday, Stuart Hogg is set to become just the fourth male - after Ross Ford (110), Chris Paterson (109) and Sean Lamont (105) - and the fifth in total - Donna Kennedy played 115 times for the women’s team - to reach 100 caps for Scotland.

The Exeter Chiefs’ full-back, now 30, was first capped at 19 in 2012 and Hardie said of his former teammate:  “Anyone that plays 100 times for their country, I have massive respect for.

“It is alright just playing, but it is the way that players who get to that level look after themselves in between games and recover as well as how they mentally prepare and ‘get up’ for it game after game among some highs and lows that impresses me the most.

“Stuart is a world-class player, he fully deserves it. He is one of the legends.”

And on Scotland skipper Jamie Ritchie, who was a young back-row coming up through the ranks at Edinburgh Rugby when Hardie was there between 2015 and 2018, he said:  “You always knew that Jamie was going to go a long way just with his temperament, the way he trained and his overall ability from a young age.

“He has great raw skills. He is very strong and it is not a surprise to see how well he has done. It’s been good to see him and other guys coming through and really leading from the front.”

Hardie’s coaching journey takes him to Heriot’s Rugby

From the outside, it has been great to watch Hardie’s coaching journey blossom in the last couple of years since he stopped playing at the top level.

Since 2021, he has been forwards coach at club side Stewart’s Melville while also helping with coaching camps and with a school team.

Last week it was announced that he was now joining Heriot’s Rugby’s coaching staff under head coach Ben Cairns, another former Scotland cap.

They are part of the newly named FOSROC Super Series, the part-time professional concept which has been running as Super6 since 2019 and aims to bridge the gap between the club and the professional game. 

On his coaching path and his new role as defence and collision coach at Goldenacre, Hardie said:  “I wasn’t sure what to expect from coaching when I first went into the Stewart’s Melville club, but I have really enjoyed the last two years.

“There has been a lot of learning alongside [head coach] Alex Hagart and the other people at the club, but they all made me feel really welcome.

“There was so much for me to pick up on as we went along, but it was an enjoyable time and we won promotion last year [from Tennent’s National League Division Two].

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“This year [in National League Division One] we have been right in games, but haven’t got the results we have wanted.

“Nevertheless, the guys have given it everything and I feel the work that I have done there, in camps with Duncan Hodge [the former Scotland stand-off who now runs Accelerate Rugby], looking after the rugby programme with the North Edinburgh Vikings and working at Stewart’s Melville College has given me a good coaching platform to move forward from.

“Working with the youngsters at the North Edinburgh Vikings and at Stewart’s Melville College has been particularly rewarding because the young players are so eager to improve and learn about every facet of the game.

“It has also helped me to work on my delivery of messages and my coach-player skills and I am grateful to the Vikings and the school for the opportunity.

“I am always keen to learn and explore new environments and when the chance recently came up to join the Heriot’s Rugby coaching team ahead of the Super Series season, it was one that I wanted to explore and take forward.

“Head coach Ben Cairns is a young, up-and-coming coach with good ideas and a philosophy on how he likes to see the game played and I hope to be able to bring my skills to the table alongside him and fellow assistants Stuart Edwards and Fin Gillies.

“I’ve been in and around the group for a few weeks now and I am enjoying getting stuck in with a new squad at a new level.”

Sea swimming: “You feel a million bucks after it”

Through his role as an ambassador with rugby mental health charity Looseheadz, John was connected with the guys from Edinburgh Blue Balls.

They are Edinburgh’s men’s mental health swim group and they often meet up for dips in the sea and socialising.

Recently the aforementioned Hogg said that he swims in the sea at Exmouth in Devon as often as he can as it is good for “both the body and mind” and “invigorates him and sets him up for the day”.

And Hardie said:  “I love getting in the sea, maybe not at the time because it is generally cold in Edinburgh, but it is a good feeling and it is also good to take part in it with a group of like-minded people.

“You feel a million bucks after it and a lot of people are getting into this type of thing and if you enjoy it and it is done in a safe environment, then why not?!”