Six Nations: Scotland sick of hearing ‘hard luck’ messages

A dejected Matt Scott, left, and Finn Russell after the defeat by England.'' Picture Ian Rutherford
A dejected Matt Scott, left, and Finn Russell after the defeat by England.'' Picture Ian Rutherford
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Criticism is one thing but sometimes it’s the patronising platitudes that really get to you.

Centre Matt Scott revealed that one of the most irksome aspects of Scotland’s dismal Six Nations run has been the supercilious pats on the back from contemptuous conquerors.

“Oh yes, it wears really thin,” said the 25-year-old, who partnered Mark Bennett in the home midfield during last weekend’s 15-9 opening loss to England at BT Murrayfield. “We’re a bit of sick of it as players and I’m sure the supporters are even more sick of it than us.

“We’re sick of coming up short time and time again and going to after-match functions and hearing condescending comments, ‘oh you played well, better luck next time’. There is a sort of sense of ‘right let’s just put this to bed’.

“The boys are working extremely hard on and off the pitch to change these results.”

Vern Cotter’s side face a formidable task to turn things around this weekend at the intimidating Principality Stadium, where they haven’t won since 2002, against a Wales team they haven’t beaten since 2007.

Personally, Scott has lost all three meetings with the Welsh during his 34-cap career and is one of the veterans of that harrowing day in Cardiff two years ago when the 14-man Scots slumped to a traumatic record 51-3 hiding.

“That, personally, is the worst I’ve ever felt after a game,” he said. “We hadn’t scored a point against England [earlier in the campaign] and then went to Wales and were beaten by 50 points. Just horrendous and it still sticks in the memory.

“At the weekend I was referencing back to that game at Murrayfield two years ago when we were embarrassed at home and was determined it wasn’t going to happen. We weren’t embarrassed but we didn’t do ourselves justice.”

If Scott retains the No 12 jersey this weekend he would be likely to come up against the experienced British and Irish Lion Jamie Roberts – a challenge that is as exciting as it is daunting.

“I have massive respect for him and he’s playing really well,” said Scott. “I’ve watched a lot of his clips from Harlequins games recently. His error count is very low, he is a strong ball carrier and strong in defence. Just very good at what he does. I’ve played him a few times now and I know what to expect. I always enjoy the challenge.

“I love watching other centres play and seeing what decisions they make and how I can add more to how I play. I like looking at other players. The good thing about the technology we have [in the camp] is that I can get Jamie Roberts’ last ten games for Harlequins and look at everything he’s done.

“His timing is really good and he knows when to step up if the forwards have taken it up. If the defence has numbers up he’s good at calling a simple scissors. His decision making from years of playing at that level is really good.”

The qualities Scott sees in Roberts are precisely what Scotland so often seem to lack on the big stage and the Edinburgh centre, who will be teaming up with national skipper Greig Laidlaw at Gloucester next season, is aware that needs to change fast.

“Vern talks about learning from our mistakes a lot,” he explained. “A year ago we were up against England at half-time at Twickenham, and then we just took our foot off the pedal. He compared that to the last five minutes at the weekend there when we were still within a score of England and we had a couple of lineouts we didn’t win, then they had the ball in possession and we just weren’t hungry enough to get the ball back.

“He showed us clips of Six Nations last year when again we were within a score and we just weren’t aggressive enough in our defence and clinical enough when we had the ball. He’s saying ‘what are we learning here?’

“That’s the big thing, are we learning from our mistakes? That’s the biggest disappointment of the weekend, we aren’t learning from games in the past when we were in the lead or close to it and we couldn’t quite get over the line. That’s the mental side of it, and it’s also analysing what we do at training, not just training for the sake of it.”

Scott said that harsh words have been said in the wake of the Calcutta Cup deflation but that it is important also to maintain a positive mindset heading into the Wales game.

“It’s always the balance for the coaches to use the stick or the carrot,” he said. “Vern’s not afraid to bring the stick and tell boys exactly what he thinks but we were chatting about what we are good at as a squad the other night and we were reeling off a lot of things we do well as a team.

“We do have a lot of strengths in this team and a lot of class players, we have to go into this week with a lot of confidence. Yeah, we need to face our responsibilities from how we played at the weekend, but we could have easily won that game, I think.

“We just have to start believing in ourselves and think we’re very close to winning consistently, we need to know what it takes to get over the line.”