SCOTLAND have postponed naming their team for Saturday evening’s Calcutta Cup clash with England by 24 hours due to injury worries.
That will not, however, spare a handful of players from the axe after a performance against Ireland labelled “awful” by one of their coaches.
The frustration of Jonathan Humphreys, a former Wales hooker and captain who took over as Scotland forwards coach last summer, was clear yesterday as he faced the media at Murrayfield.
A scheduled training session was cancelled because there were too many players still recovering from injuries suffered in the 28-6 defeat in Dublin. Due to a poor forecast for today the squad will train indoor at Ravenscraig but the announcement of the team to face England in Saturday’s Calcutta Cup match has been put back to tomorrow.
Several of the players who did emerge physically unscathed from Sunday will still be receiving bad news. Humphreys said: “There will be some change in the posiitons that we feel we have strength.
“You can ask me all the questions you want, but the fact is that we were awful [on Sunday] and we’re not hiding away from that. It’s nowhere near the standards that we set ourselves, nowhere near where we want to be and nowhere near where we want to go.
“You can talk about what it’s going to be like against England, but that’s not the point. We don’t need to have high spikes and low troughs the whole time. The standards we set must be constant and the internal motivation must be the driving factor in our performance, not the team we are playing against.
“There is no hiding away from the fact that we were dreadful in every aspect of forward play at the weekend. Every aspect.
“You can talk about honesty, but this is fact. We were awful. And, if you say that we’ll turn around because we’re playing the ‘Auld Enemy’ and we’ll put on a performance, it doesn’t hide the fact that we were still awful.”
Scotland’s lineout was the main problem, costing the team good scoring chances and handing Ireland chances at the other end of the field, but Humphreys also criticised the players’ mindset. He added: “There’s a certain thing called intent. Intent to do things. We certainly lacked the intent to do things.
“I won’t go into the details of what that intent is about, that’s for us, but I’ll keep on reiterating the fact that it’s not about getting a reaction to play against England. It’s too simplistic to say players can’t ‘get up’, or question how passionate they are. It’s about sticking to the principles that you drive on a weekly basis and over the top of that you bring the other stuff, so right now we can’t be talking about the other stuff until we do our core principles correctly.
“Your set-piece functions off principles, for example, and, unless these are constant factors, then you will lose lineouts in key, critical areas.
“We lost three of our first five attacking lineouts through nothing that Ireland did. Nothing. They were nowhere near winning the ball off us. It was our error. The key things that we’re talking about apply right there. We win three, or even two of those lineouts and, all of a sudden, we create more pressure on them.
“You could say we were dreadful in that first half, but we created many opportunities. What we didn’t do was squeeze them with the opportunities that we had at set-piece. That’s what cost us the game.
“Had we gone into half-time 6-3 behind and got that penalty after half-time, all of a sudden you’re in the game and Ireland get tight, because they expect to beat us.
“England will expect to beat us but the game changes when it’s you squeezing the opposition, keeping pressure on the opposition. You release that pressure through your own errors and you allow the opposition into the game, and allow them to create go-forward, and that was what we did. And it wasn’t about anything other than simply sticking to what we needed to do at these lineouts.”
Humphreys made his feelings known to the players on Monday and head coach Scott Johnson sees things similarly. But, asked how much responsibility the coaches took, Humphreys was as strident in his response.
“I’m completely culpable. It’s me. I am culpable for everything [to do with the forwards] that goes on out there, because that’s me. I will never hide away from that fact.
“A coach’s job is to step forward when it doesn’t go right and step back when it does. I will step forward and take complete responsibility for that shambles at the weekend.”
THE SCOTSMAN RUGBY SHOW IN ASSOCIATION WITH GINGER GROUSE