SCOTLAND’S best player at Twickenham on Saturday, Stuart Hogg, insisted that he could take little comfort from his own performance and first Calcutta Cup try, but also admitted to taking confidence from the players around him.
The performance, he stated, was lost in the mess of a tackle area dominated by the men in white, which left his side feeding off scraps for most of the game, and that clearly is not the kind of match in which he expects to excel. But he is hopeful that the selectors will stick with the back three of himself, Tim Visser and Sean Maitland in the belief that there was a glimpse on Saturday of the new finishing qualities the trio can produce.
He said: “Of course I was pleased with my own performance but I can’t really take anything away from the game.
“It’s a team game and there are 14 other boys on the pitch with their jobs to do. We’re all just desperately disappointed with the outcome. You could have your best game of the season but it defeats the purpose when you lose as a team. And the boys are just really annoyed we didn’t do things right in the set-piece and in the collision area and we are all pretty down.
“I was pleased with my part in the first try when I look back, but Sean Lamont did a lot of good work off the ball and I then had good support. That’s what I want to be doing, getting the ball in hand and exploiting the space that’s in front of me, because that’s the strongest part of my game.
“I think we are all excited about what we can do and achieve. I certainly know what it’s like playing against Tim, so it’s good to have him on side with Scotland and Sean showed what he’s all about when he scored that try. I thought he was outstanding and it’s about getting the ball into these guys’ hands. That was our game-plan for England but it didn’t quite work out like that. I just hope it’s the same back three for next week and that we get a bit more ball in hand.”
That wish is likely to come true as there was little doubt that the back three came together well as the game wore on and after a decidedly uncomfortable opening minute for Visser when he was left on his backside by Ben Morgan. That is a reminder to the big Edinburgh wing of the step-up from club to Test arena and the need to continue to work hard on getting angles, pace and power right in defence.
Hogg spoke of how he had fallen off his game at the end of last year and had to dig deep to look again at how he could change his game and improve it. That kind of self-appraisal and desire to improve is vital to this Scotland team if they are going to learn lessons from Twickenham and meet the Italian challenge head-on at Murrayfield on Saturday.
But Hogg knows as well as anyone that the backs rely on good forward ball to fashion a threatening game and that is a key area requiring players to step-up this week as the Italian pack could be stronger in the set-piece.
“Ultimately, our backs hardly saw the ball and you cannot win games like that,” Hogg acknowledged. “You have to give England credit because they kept the ball alive so well; they were patient and they kept coming forward, and we will need to be patient next week. We wanted to kick the championship off with a win but it didn’t happen and now we need to look to next week. The home games are so important and we all know what happened last year [Scotland lost in Rome]; that was a career low for me.
“We finished bottom last year off the back of that, but that hasn’t even been brought up this time around. We are looking to win as many games as we can. We want to put our names in the hat in terms of winning this competition. But it’s Italy up next and we have to focus on that. It will be a tough match but we have a chance to put things right. In stages against England we showed again that we can hurt teams but we’re not doing that often enough, and I suppose the only good thing to come out of Saturday is that we all know where we are going wrong and we all know what we have to work on this week.”