ENGLAND coach Stuart Lancaster refrained from putting the boot into Scotland and insisted that his side’s bristling defence, combined with the muddy Murrayfield turf, limited the home side in Saturday’s Calcutta Cup match.
But he agreed his side should have won the RBS Six Nations clash by a greater margin.
Scotland were 13-0 down at half-time and, despite one of their most toothless displays in recent years, conceded only one further try in an eventual 20-0 loss. England now head home for a crucial match against unbeaten Ireland in 12 days’ time, while Scott Johnson’s men travel to Rome where Italy are confident of grabbing a first win of the year after losing 30-10 to France yesterday.
In an online poll published last night, 83 per cent of those asked whether they felt Scotland would win a match in this tournament answered ‘no’ and predicted a second whitewash and wooden spoon in three years.
Asked whether he was surprised by Scotland’s display, Lancaster said: “I think it probably reflected how well we started the game. We controlled the game for large periods and I don’t think we gave Scotland an opportunity. Scotland want to play a multi-phase game and are trying to develop that, but the weather and pitch didn’t help.
“As long as you get your decision-making at the breakdown right, at some point you’re going to have to kick the ball away. Ultimately, that’s what they had to do. It was not a day for attacking rugby but we were also frustrated that we didn’t convert more of our opportunities because we dominated the second half.
“There were chances that we didn’t take so we definitely have regrets over the points we left out there. But, even though we lost to France, we always felt we were still in it and the Murrayfield result sets us up for an important game against Ireland.
“Ireland have played really well but we’re confident also.”
Confidence is hardly coursing through the Scottish camp after a disappointing tail-off in Ireland was followed by a performance against England that never got off the ground.
Stand-off Duncan Weir has been introduced to the difficulty of playing in Scotland’s pivotal role, perennially under pressure, but he is hopeful of retaining the No 10 jersey and making serious improvements in Rome. He said: “Every time you lose at home to England you’re always going to go into a dark place.
“Conditions underfoot didn’t let us play with the ball in hand and do as many good things as we did last week and, sadly, we only managed to get into their 22 once and that just isn’t good enough. It’s hugely frustrating and the next couple of days are going to be hard as we reflect back but it’s about how we react and learn.
“Nothing is easy in international rugby. The pressure you’re under from opposition that’s such high quality – it’s how we deal with that as a team and I believe that we’ll sort out the rights and wrongs and, hopefully, have ironed out the creases by Italy.”