Edinburgh Rugby centre Matt Scott admits he is playing for his international future each time he steps onto the turf with the Capital outfit.
The 25-year-old was outstanding in Friday’s European Challenge Cup win at Agen but concedes that he must replicate that effort over the coming weeks if he is to achieve his objective of securing a place in Vern Cotter’s Scotland squad for the RBS Six Nations.
“I was happy enough with my carrying, and I had to make a few tackles which I did. I am just trying to play as well as I can. I think this year for the national team it’s wide open who is going to start in the midfield. You have four or five guys you could put a good case for to start in the Six Nations”, he said.
“I am just trying to play well enough for Edinburgh to even get in the squad. I am not getting ahead of myself at all. We will come up against bigger and tougher teams and I have to just try and keep improving as a player.”
Scott created the second of Edinburgh’s three tries with a searing break and offload to Cornell Du Preez. And he almost reproduced the move late in the game as Edinburgh chased the four-try bonus – on that occasion he was caught just short of the line and the move foundered on a knock on by a colleague.
Those two runs illuminated a dreich French night in which the only real negative for Edinburgh was the failure to clinch the additional point – something that has eluded them in all of their victories this season. The Capital men now sit two points clear at the top of the qualifying pool with their rivals having each lost at least one match. Scott was pleased with the showing, adding: “The forwards gave us a good platform and we managed to get a good bit of ball in the back line. Conditions were a bit Edinburgh-esque which we weren’t expecting. But we had trained in it all week and played in it the week before so I think that helped us a bit. But again the scrum was excellent, we got some good lineout ball and that was the basis for a victory in those conditions.”
The forward pack, led by the all-international front row of Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford and WP Nel, has earned the praise of Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons, and the addition of back rower John Hardie has brought an additional dimension to the side. The back-to-back European victories since Solomons has had access to his Scotland stars have suggested that the players who were involved at the World Cup have returned with a vengeance. Scott concurs.
“I think we have all improved as players. I think I have improved as a player. Just being in that intensive environment for so long, there is pressure on your skills, there is pressure on you as an individual on and off the pitch and I think that has made us better people and rugby players.”
However, Scott believes that the European success over the past two weekends will be of little consequence if Edinburgh fail to translate those performances into an improvement in their Guinness PRO12 form. The first opportunity to do so comes on Friday as they seek to bounce back from a run of three defeats when Newport Gwent Dragons visit BT Murrayfield.
“I am not sure if the Challenge Cup is as important for French teams as the Top 14. There is a lot of pressure on these sides to stay in the Top 14 and the Challenge Cup is almost a bonus,” added Scott. “We were using this week to give us some momentum going back into the league because we were in a bit of a trough. After losing three on the bounce, we fielded a strong side and we got what we came for. We have built some momentum for what is a must-win game. These two wins will mean nothing if we can’t win in the league. We really need to get back up the table.”