Scotland’s ‘blunt review’ of Ireland defeat stopped short of being ‘angry or aggressive’

Mike Blair said Scotland’s players and management had undertaken “a fairly blunt review” of Sunday’s defeat by Ireland which stopped short of being “angry or aggressive”.

Finn Russell is unlikely to be fit to face Italy. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

Blair, the national side’s assistant coach, admitted the performance was below the expectations the group have set for themselves.

Scotland have the chance to return to winning ways on Saturday at home to Italy, who have not won a Six Nations match for six years. Lest anyone become too complacent, their last victory was at Murrayfield.

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Blair thinks Scotland are better than their results have shown. Back-to-back home defeats against Wales and Ireland have taken the shine off a campaign which began so promisingly with a first win at Twickenham for 38 years.

Scotland assistant coach Mike Blair says the players have held their hands up. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS

“I think frustration is the best word,” Blair said when asked to describe the mood in the team meeting. “It’s certainly not aggressive or angry because we are all going for the same goal. You could see the frustration across the whole group, but with a six-day turnaround you’ve got to put that to bed. We have to pick our chins up and move on.

“We’ve built up an expectation of the level of game we want to play and we didn’t reach that. We’ve got to look for positives, there’s no point in finding negatives with everything because that’s not going to help us, we have a couple of games still to play. We had a fairly blunt review of the game, the players are aware of what we need to work on, and the players know they need to get fired into Italy.”

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The task will be made harder by the absence of some key personnel.

Finn Russell is unlikely to play after sustaining a head knock against Ireland but Blair is hopeful the stand-off will recover in time for Scotland’s final Six Nations match of the season against France. Scott Cummings, the lock forward, has undergone a scan on a suspected hand fracture and the management team is awaiting the results. Another second row, Jonny Gray, damaged his shoulder on Sunday. “We’re waiting to see how he’s progressing, as it is a short week we need to keep an eye on him,” said Blair.

The coach felt Scotland lost the Ireland game at the lineout and the breakdown and said the players had taken responsibility for the manner of the 27-24 defeat.

“They put their hands up before stuff was even said,” said Blair. “We have got a very self-aware group that put their hands up and say they have made mistakes which is for the betterment of the team.

“We are fortunate in that we have built good relationships up with the players so we feel that they are able to speak their minds. The last couple of days these conversations have been happening and then Gregor [Townsend] led on the meeting today as a result of conversations he has had with the players and coaches.”

Blair added that the players were prepared to address each other’s flaws in a constructive manner.

“It is something we have got better at,” he said. “Previously we would be concerned about what the other player or your mate would say behind their backs but there is a lot of honesty and understanding in this group.”

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