Six Nations: Harley targeting big finish for Scots

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FLANKER Rob Harley claims Scotland will be targeting a shut-out of France in their final RBS Six Nations match on Saturday.

Scotland’s defence was put under pressure by their own indiscipline in the 28-18 loss to Wales at the weekend. Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny was able to kick 23 points to add to Richard Hibbard’s try as the Scots contributed to a world-record 18 attempts on the posts by continually conceding penalties.

But Glasgow forward Harley insists Scotland have it in them to combine a stronger defensive display with the attacking style that saw them score six touchdowns in their opening two games of this year’s tournament when they play France in Paris.

He said: “We have come a long way. Some of the things we have been doing, we haven’t done before. The tightness of the squad helps and some of the rugby we have played and tries we have scored, the pressure we have put on teams has shown great progress. It is up to us to acknowledge what we have done wrong and build on the positives. Our championship now comes down to the last week and it is a chance for us to show the potential of the side and to put together a complete performance and show a defensive display that we know we are capable of.”

A lack of patience as referee Craig Joubert was setting up the scrum was the main misdemeanour that cost Scotland.

Hooker Ross Ford was warned he would be sin-binned if he did not cease engaging before the Welsh pack had set and that cautionary note was enough to neuter the hosts’ set-piece effectiveness at Murrayfield.

Harley, though, insisted Scotland will work hard to fix the problems which cost them victory and their chance to challenge England for the title in this week’s final round of fixtures. He said: “It was really disappointing. We came into the game with high hopes but didn’t reach what we were hoping for, especially with our scrum.

“We had a lot of penalties go against us. That makes it tough to build momentum. Wales gave us a bit of a lesson in using the advantage that they had in possession and territory and they kept the pressure on us.

“We didn’t get any respite. When we scored, they were straight back down attacking us at the other end. We went in having prepared all week on our scrum sessions. We wanted to get a chance to scrum but it was frustrating for me that we kept finding ourselves back ten and not getting the chance to have that part of the contest.”

Meanwhile, a scan yesterday confirmed Scotland lock Richie Gray suffered a grade two hamstring tear during the first half of Saturday’s game, but could still play again before the end of the season.

Team doctor James Robson said: “Richie underwent a scan at Spire Murrayfield Hospital which confirmed the presence of a grade two tear of one of his hamstring muscles. The normal period of rehabilitation from injuries of this nature is in the region of eight weeks. He will now commence his recovery with his club [Sale] with a view to playing before the end of the season.”