Scotland focus now all on putting things right against Italy

Scotland may still be licking wounds both physical and psychological in the wake of Saturday's Twickenham trauma but there is a sense of relief they have an immediate opportunity to respond.

Tighthead Zander Fagerson cuts a dejected figure after Scotland's humbling defeat at Twickenham.  Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire.
Tighthead Zander Fagerson cuts a dejected figure after Scotland's humbling defeat at Twickenham. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire.

Forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys admitted that, despite the fact a number of players were striving to regain fitness in time for Saturday’s Six Nations finale at home to Italy, the less time spent stewing over that 61-21 Calcutta Cup thrashing the better.

“I think everyone is pretty keen to get on, train, play the next game as soon as we can because that’s basically all you can do. The one-week prep is definitely preferable,” said the Welshman at Scotland’s Oriam
training base yesterday.

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Humphreys, pictured below, and the Scotland staff could only look on in agony as Scotland’s Triple Crown bid fell apart from the start as Fraser Brown’s early yellow card set the tone for a miserable afternoon but the packs chief said all thoughts were now focused on setting things right this weekend.

“Look, it’s a difficult one, there is a lot of things happened in that game which you can’t really plan for,” said Humphreys. “When you have a system it’s very difficult to get that back, especially against a team that haven’t been beaten for a long, long time.

“We can try to pick the bones through it and re-evaluate it but we move on.

“We know what we’re capable of and that we are a pretty decent team who have been in good form.

“We’re going to try to fix the things we can while focusing on what the next step is for us. Italy pose different problems, so we need to make sure we are mindful of what’s coming, not what’s just been.”

Head coach Vern Cotter suggested the events of three days ago constituted a “rogue game” and Humphreys agreed that there was no cause for despair.

“I don’t think we should take away how well England played,” he insisted. “They were outstanding and sometimes when teams get beaten they fail to acknowledge that fact. But they were outstanding, very, very good and we were certainly off where we needed to be.

“What we need to address is that we are playing Italy and, if we win, it will be the best tournament for a while. That’s our sole focus.

“[During my playing career] I once came off a thumping to England with Wales. The only thing you can do as a player is want to play. You want to get back out there again.”

With a citing cloud hanging over hooker Brown and Mark Bennett definitely out with knee and arm injuries, Humphreys confirmed that Stuart McInally and Gloucester centre Matt Scott were with the squad this week.

Finn Russell, Huw Jones (both knee) and Richie Gray (hamstring) all underwent scans yesterday, while Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour and Ryan Wilson are all in the concussion protocols process.

Young tighthead Zander 
Fagerson couldn’t hide the 
lingering sense of deflation within the squad following Saturday’s harrowing defeat but attempted to be bullish and rally one last push to 
finish the tournament on a high note.

The 21-year-old admitted Scotland “didn’t turn up” at Twickenham and added: “It is hard. What can you say? You can’t be happy with that. It was not great. But we have to park it. Put it behind us and have a new attitude and get ready for Italy.

“You have got to have a flush mentality. You can’t dwell on the past. You have to flush it.”

Fagerson has been on a steep learning curve throughout the international season as WP Nel’s injury has seen him play all seven Tests since the autumn. He said that experiences like the one endured at Twickenham can only add to his education rather than set it back.

“These are the games you learn most,” he said. “It is about character and how we bounce back. It is a learning curve. You are gutted every time you don’t win. We used the France game and came back against Wales. I hope we can learn from it and put in a performance that we can be proud of.”

Humphreys, meanwhile, is braced for a testing encounter against an Italian side battling to avoid a whitewash. “They are a very difficult team to break down, especially in the first 60 minutes,” 
he said.

“They pose a very physical threat up front. They’ve got a very good maul. A good scrum that they launch a lot of stuff off. We understand that the same potential threats that we had on the weekend there may not be there this week but there are other avenues for them to get into the game. A lot of our games with Italy have been very tough, very tight and we’re not expecting anything different.”

Scotland will have noted that Italy missed 55 tackles in their loss to France, many in the wide channels, but Humphreys added: “That won’t change how we’ve been wanting to play for a long time. We’re pretty confident that we’re an attacking force.”