THE soul-searching is over, the promised ‘brutal’ review has been held, and Scotland will now move on from what the captain, John Barclay, called “a big bump in the road” – the record 61-21 defeat by England. The metaphor is a neat summary of how the squad and the coaching team alike view the Twickenham match: it disrupted their progress, but they are confident they are travelling in the right direction and can get back on course against Italy at Murrayfield.
“We reviewed it and went over it,” Barclay said yesterday about the England match, which equalled the biggest losing margin in the history of the Calcutta Cup. “You can’t really gloss over what went wrong.
“I certainly believe we’ve been on the right path and right trend for a while now. I don’t think anyone saw that game coming at the weekend.
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“But we can still finish with three wins, still finish second in the table – which we’ve never done before [in the Six Nations]. What happened was a bump in the road – albeit a fairly big bump.”
The ‘brutal’ review of the match that Barclay promised immediately after it has now taken place, and the squad and coaches have thought long and hard about what went wrong and how to ensure it does not happen again. But the captain believes the team are ready to move on with a good performance against the Italians that could, as he said, take Scotland up to second in the final table behind England.
“I looked at whether we prepared well, if there were things we could have done differently,” he said. “The guys are pretty dusted up. We’ve put more emphasis on getting a bit of clarity and making sure we’re ready to go at the weekend.
“We can’t – and we don’t need to – reinvent the wheel in the space of a week. We just made a lot of uncharacteristic errors at the weekend.
“You’re just gutted when you lose. The manner of it was very hard to take.
“You can’t feel sorry for yourself. You have to draw a line under it, learn from it certainly, but be ready to move on, go out there and be ready for one more big game to end the Championship. We trained well today and didn’t see any drawing back – it was all about looking forward. We can’t afford to look back now.”
Duncan Weir, who had to come on at full-back rather than stand-off against England because of injuries, agreed with Barclay that Scotland have obviously been making progress. “We’re still ranked five in the world and that’s for a reason – we’ve developed.
“There’s no dramas. We can right those wrongs and go out on Saturday and prove to the people that we’re a proud group of players that are hugely motivated to do well for their country,” Weir added.
Scotland may need a bonus point at Murrayfield if they are to finish second, but Weir insisted they would not embark on a try-chase from kick-off. “We know the maths in the table of where we want to go, but if you go straight to that, there’s a big gap in the middle where you won’t focus on the detail and could come unstuck.
“There’s a process of how we’ll approach the game; what we are going to do in certain areas, and how we’ll play. If we do that correctly then we’ll have the outcome we want.”