Dan Parks sure Scotland's feelgood factor will bring more success

THE CONFIDENCE that stems from victory could provide the key Scotland have been yearning for to make the international team a serious player on the world stage.

That was the view of Dan Parks as the squad arrived back in Edinburgh Airport yesterday, minus coach Andy Robinson who headed to his family home in Bath and a handful of players who left in other directions on holiday. Saltires flew as a group of children from Echline Primary School in South Queensferry who had made the trip specially to see the squad were joined by throngs of interested members of the public eager to show their appreciation for the squad as they emerged from the flight home from Argentina.

The fact that confidence is important to winning is a simple and obvious thought, but Parks, whose claim to the No10 jersey was strengthened on tour, pointed to the victory against Ireland at the end of the RBS Six Nations Championship as having provided the crucial foundation for the side's steely displays and two-Test series win.

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"I've been on five tours, including the World Cup in 2007, and this was the best, both from a personal point of view and the team, because we won, obviously, but really because of the confidence in the squad at the finish," he said. "On my first tour in Australia we were near, but didn't win either game, although we beat Samoa in Wellington, and although we did quite well when we were in South Africa in 2006, they were always in control. In Argentina two years ago we should have won the first Test, but didn't, and then won the second, but this felt very different.

"And it all came from the performances in the Six Nations and getting that win in Dublin. The players had the confidence because we had performed. Where that stood out for me was in the first Test (in Tucuman] when there was no panic when we went behind. We just kept playing and controlled the scoreboard and it worked out for us. We had to claw it back, but we did it playing the way we had wanted to and always felt comfortable.

"The second game was a lot more difficult because the weather was wet and the ball was slippery, and we played into a strong wind in the second half, which made it harder getting into the right areas. But we took our chances to get the points and showed our character to win again.

"Confidence is a huge thing in that. All the players picked have been in good form and I've said before Andy (Robinson] has made a big difference to how the team goes because he instils a lot of confidence in the players. For me it just feels like I'm part of a squad with a real winning mentality," he added. "We feel strongly that we should have won three games in the Six Nations, and the fact we didn't just makes everyone want to prove it more and go out there and win more. It's not easy and we have a lot to work on, but there's a feeling of onwards and upwards."

While most of the squad will return to Glasgow and Edinburgh to focus on how to make the necessary improvements, notably to become a more potent finishing team, Parks heads for pastures new this summer and a new career with Cardiff. He admitted that when he agreed to the move at the end of last year he held little hope for resurrecting his Test career, but insisted that his hopes of helping Cardiff win silverware would still dovetail with new hopes of international success.

"I don't want to be going to a new place just to make up the numbers. It's exciting and I want to go there and strengthen the Cardiff squad. Yes, when I first signed I wasn't sure what was going to happen with Scotland, and a lot has changed in the last six months, but I was excited about the change then and am more excited about it now," Parks explained.

"Andy (Robinson] has not given me any indication that there is going to be an issue, and Cardiff are happy. Sean (Lamont] and Nikki (Walker] don't have any issues with being released for Scotland so I'm confident I will be able to give my all for Cardiff and Scotland.

"It's definitely an exciting time to be involved with Scotland and we've worked hard for these results, so I want to be a part of it going forward."

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As he finished, one of the Echline pupils moved in for an autograph, beaming at the prospect of meeting his Scotland hero.

"It is great to see them," said Joe Wallace, a Forrester Under-10s player. "I watched the second game and though they could have drawn it they kept their defence for a good win. Football is probably my first sport, then rugby, but it was great to see Scotland winning."

That comment goes to the heart of why the Scotland squad's achievement promises wider repercussions. There is nothing more attractive than winners.