Coach Dan McFarland refused to rule Scotland out of the Six Nations title race yesterday, despite their horror start in Cardiff, where they lost 34-7 to Wales.
The Scots had been tipped as championship challengers this year but were blown away by Warren Gatland’s side and any pretensions of contending for the silverware appeared similarly cast to the wind.
But forwards coach McFarland pointed out: “In 2013, Wales were beaten comfortably by Ireland in the first game at home and won the championship.
“As far as we’re concerned, as long as it is statistically available for us to win the championship then, yes, we can. We’ll look to win every game from here on in. That will be the mentality, and If I said anything less then you would think it extremely odd, wouldn’t you?”
While things clearly went badly wrong at the weekend, McFarland refutes suggestions that the high-tempo gameplan pioneered by head coach Gregor Townsend has been shown to be unsuitable for the intensity of a Six Nations championship.
“I don’t see why we would [change it], it has brought us success,” he said, before referring to some barbed comments made by England coach Eddie Jones before the tournament about Scotland being “the darlings of European rugby” as they move from side to side.
“I don’t know whether there is a perception there that this a game of flinging the ball around like a bunch of ‘darlings’ but to me we have tremendous variety in our game,” said McFarland.
“We can be direct. We can move the ball if we think there is space. At the weekend there was space – that was demonstrated when we broke them on numerous occasions, but we just weren’t accurate enough when we did that.
“We can score tries from mauls. We can kick and we can chase. There are plenty of ways for us to play but it doesn’t matter what way you’re playing. If you are not accurate you are not going to get a foothold in the game.”
It was fairly clear that Scotland were outplayed on the pitch but McFarland was asked if he felt Townsend and his team had been outcoached off it, too. He replied: “The first thing you do as a coach is look at yourself. What did we get wrong? Could we have done anything differently? For myself, we had an excellent lineout in the summer and in the autumn we didn’t function very well – I’ve got to take that.
“The lads trained hard and, going into it, we thought we were going to do well there but their lineout defence was excellent – Aaron Shingler is some player, a real athlete, and he got up and disrupted us. So, I’ve got ask myself some questions about how I prepared us for that game.”