ONE of the few successes in a dark blue shirt yesterday was David Denton. The Edinburgh No.8 was winning his 19th cap for Scotland, and has rarely been so frustrated and disappointed in his career.
Denton said: “It was very different to last week in the sense that, against Ireland, we were frustrated because it was a game we should have been in until the end and should have won, whereas this week we didn’t play any rugby and you are not going to be in a game where you defend so much.
“It was a short turnaround from last weekend, it was another big scoreline, but when we did have the ball there was promise. Today we just didn’t have the ball, and the one positive we can take – and it’s an age-old story for Scottish rugby and it can get quite tiresome – is that the boys showed a lot of resolve.
“That’s always going to be the case – anyone who pulls on a Scotland jersey is never going to give anything less than 100 per cent. But at Test level rugby these days, resolve and attitude and effort doesn’t win you games – it’s down to execution.”
There will be considerable inquiries into why Scotland failed to execute their gameplan, but it wasn’t happening last night, with Denton maintaining that the changing room immediately after the match was not the place to examine the failures. “Everyone’s heads are down and we are all very disappointed,” said Denton,” but you can’t talk tactically when you haven’t watched the game. We will be in on Wednesday and Friday and I’m sure we’ll go through some reviews.”
Denton was honest in his assessment of the problem areas for Scotland: “The set-piece was an issue, as it was last week, and we really need to get it fixed.
“We are pretty lucky in the sense that have got two weeks now as we clearly need a lot more time together as a lineout to make sure that everything goes to plan. And coming into Italy, we are going to need a strong scrum.”
Scotland’s hoped-for tactics just didn’t work out, as Denton explained: “The main focus we had coming into this game, as you could have told by 60 minutes in, was that we wanted to play a territorial game. We had no intention, if we were on the back foot, of playing after three phases, but, unfortunately, we were always on the back foot.
“If we got one good carry or first phase, their line speed was brilliant coming up to that and stuck us back. From a personal view, all of my carries were off kick returns with only one or two off general play, and you want to mix it up more.”
There was one genuine bright spot for Scotland in the performance on his debut of openside flanker Chris Fusaro of Glasgow Warriors, whom Denton knows well as they came through the youth academy ranks together.
“Fuzzy was awesome as usual,” said Denton. “He’s a terrier and that is what he is in the team to do. What he brings is an attitude – for someone of his size he’s a real aggressive guy who will get in your face. Seeing him in the gym recently I can tell you he’s a strong guy, a lot stronger than people who are double his size, and everything he lacks in size he makes up for in heart – he did well today.”
Denton’s face when he was replaced by Johnnie Beattie after 53 minutes spoke volumes about his disappointment, but he admitted that it was the correct call by the coaching team.
He said: “I was disappointed to come off, as I thought I was going reasonably well, but I had spoken to the coaches earlier in the week and they had said to me that they didn’t want me to pace myself in any way, just to go out there and give it absolutely everything and, if I looked like I was getting to a point where I couldn’t play any more, they would take me off.
“I can definitely say I was absolutely stuffed by the time I came off. You never want to come off, but, in the interests of the team, if I had played another ten or 15 minutes maybe I would have been a bit too tired.”
Denton’s verdict on the next match, against Italy in Rome, in a fortnight iss simple: “It’s massive, particularly going over there. They are going to target us, as they always do, and we have a lot of things we need to sort out if we are going to win that game as they are a quality side.”
At 24, Denton’s articulate and frank honesty as well as his play on the pitch mark him down as a potential future Scotland captain. His comments about resolve not being enough should be listened to.