It took him 105 days but skipper Greig Laidlaw finally braved a repeat viewing of Scotland’s Rugby World Cup epic against Australia on Monday night.
If the match was a movie it would be hard to know which genre to classify it in as the events of Twickenham back on 18 October had everything – thrills, drama, intrigue, horror, romance and even a touch of farce. Laidlaw said last week that he would take the pain of that 35-34 defeat, when South African referee Craig Joubert wrongly awarded a late penalty to the Wallabies, “to the grave” but finally decided to relive every minute.
“I watched the Australia game last night in full for the first time and I got excited watching it. I was able to take the emotion away from it,” explained Laidlaw at BT Murrayfield yesterday.
“Crikey we played some good rugby. It was a great feeling watching some of it.”
Laidlaw hopes that Scotland can take the positives from that display, learn from the mistakes, and produce both a performance and the right result this time in Saturday’s RBS Six Nations opener at home to England.
Laidlaw added: “I was back in the camp and we have all of the analysis tools at our disposal so I thought if we are going to get better as a team then you need to look at your last performance.
“We need to understand why we were beaten. It was good to learn from it. There were opportunities within the game that we missed, so we need to have our finger on the pulse come Saturday throughout the 80 minutes. We lost concentration on a couple of occasions during the game. We need to concentrate for as long as the game lasts.
“As a captain, it’s all of these little things which add up. We were only just beaten and we could just as easily won.
“I thought we were tremendous against Australia in playing within our game plan. We kicked well, we were able to exit our half and once we did that it allowed us to play our game.
“We played with a lot of skill and put Australia under a lot of pressure.
“We were extremely close to reaching a World Cup semi-final and we need to take the good feelings from that game. We also need to learn as we ultimately fell short.
“If we can do that then we are going to be in a good place.
“That starts in our training and in our preparation. We are trying to get that ‘no excuses’ mentality.
“It’s being drummed into the squad and I believe we are getting there.”
Looked at as a whole, Scotland’s World Cup campaign was far from perfect but it was a mighty advance on the misery of the Wooden Spoon whitewash a few months earlier.
There is not much encouragement to be taken from a glance at Scotland’s record in the Six Nations but Laidlaw insists he and the squad are not dwelling on the chastening list of negative statistics.
“Scotland have under-performed in the tournament in the past,” he said. “But this is our time in the jersey. If we could turn that around it would be great for us to leave for the next group coming in.
“We are solely fixed on doing that. The Six Nations is a momentum-based tournament so if you win early it gives you confidence going into the tournament.”
Winning is not something Scotland have done much of since the Five Nations became Six in 2000 and winning early is virtually unheard of. It is ten years since Scotland won their only Six Nations opening match when they beat France 20-16 in Edinburgh.
Laidlaw accepts that losing the first game can so often suck the life out of a campaign before it has even got going. “History shows it is not good,” conceded the Gloucester scrum-half. “But it doesn’t affect our mindset.”
Another stat to chill the blood is the one that reveals the Scots haven’t scored a try on home soil against the Auld Enemy since Simon Danielli’s consolation effort 12 years ago against Clive Woodward’s newly-crowned world champions.
Laidlaw is confident that can be put right. “We caused a lot of teams problems at the World Cup when we got our game right,” he said.
“We don’t worry too much about other things, we just want to get our game right. We believe we have a set-up which will cause teams problems.”
The last time England came north it ended in a humiliating 20-0 shut-out defeat for the hosts and Laidlaw reflected: “That game was one of the poorest games I’ve played for Scotland so it was disappointing from a personal point of view and the other boys felt the same.
“It’s about learning and developing as players. You need to use some of the emotion as it’s a huge game and to play in it is magnificent. But to win it would be even better.
“The last time we played England at Murrayfield we let down the jersey, it was a tough day to bounce back from and it took a while. But having seen where we have come from it’s encouraging.
“We get a sense it’s starting to come together.”
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