Forwards coach confident Scotland’s hard work will pay off

Forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys is staying positive
Forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys is staying positive
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Forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys is adamant Scotland are making “incredible strides” as a squad despite their ongoing wait for an RBS Six Nations victory.

Scotland’s 15-9 defeat by England at BT Murrayfield on Saturday made it eight consecutive losses in the tournament stretching back to their last-gasp triumph against Italy in Rome in February 2014.

Vern Cotter’s team went into their latest Calcutta Cup meeting with optimism after getting further than England in the World Cup, but some familiar problems saw them fail to get over the line, a feat they achieved at least once in each of their 14 games last year.

Humphreys said: “We’re all frustrated by the outcome because we felt we had a few opportunities to score and win that game.

“In a six-point game it comes down to really fine margins and we are disappointed with some of the execution that we got.

“The last 18 months we have made incredible strides forward and it’s just frustrating that we don’t see it in the Six Nations in turning these close losses into wins.

“Six Nations games are incredibly difficult to win, and we’re in there with a shout. We haven’t been against England the last (two times) we have played them.

“Even though the scoreline was quite close at Twickenham (25-13), we shouldn’t have been in that game. Two years ago when we got beat 20-0, we weren’t in it, so we are making strides forward.

“There will be some good times around the corner for this team.”

Scotland face no less difficult a task in their next encounter, against Wales in Cardiff, where they suffered their record Five or Six Nations defeat two years ago, going down 51-3.

And Humphreys and his fellow coaches know what they need to improve following the England disappointment.

“The lesson for us is we got into their 22 eight times and didn’t come away with anything,” the former Wales international said.

“Some of our approach work was good, some of our strike work was really good, we didn’t have much opportunity to attack from set-piece in the second half and had limited numbers.

“But it’s about the small details when we get into these scoring positions to make sure we maintain the ball and keep our structure.

“It’s about training and trying to make things habit. If you go into these games thinking about anything other than the moment, then you’re in trouble.”

The assessment was similar from flanker Blair Cowan, who came on midway through the second half on Saturday.

“In Test rugby, there are very limited opportunities and there were a couple out there that we didn’t take,” he said. “We have to be more clinical.

“In Test match footy it’s those fine margins that you have really got to take. I think we made two defensive errors and they scored twice off them, and that’s the ball game right there.

“They maybe made two defensive errors that we could have scored off, and we didn’t take them.

“We have to learn from that, when these opportunities arise, it’s non-negotiable that we’ve got to take them.”

Cowan is adamant that the defeat will not erase the feelgood factor that followed their World Cup exploits.

“That buzz is still there,” said the New Zealand-born forward, who made his debut in the summer of 2014.

“There was definitely a feeling in the camp that I haven’t felt since I got capped, that we are starting to believe in ourselves and believe that we’re good.

“It’s super easy to pick ourselves up, we are hungry. We were bitterly disappointed with the game, especially on the back of the World Cup and the buzz we had.

“To know that’s nowhere near where we can be is motivation in itself just to get back out there and train and put those wrongs right. It’s an unbelievable opportunity at the Millennium.”