Greig Laidlaw has set Scotland the target of at least equalling their 2013 performance of third equal when the Six Nations Championship rolls around in the new year.
The Scots open against Ireland in Dublin and the Edinburgh scrum half is confident that what he believes is an upward curve can be maintained despite two defeats from three Autumn Tests.
“We are getting better, I really believe that,” said Laidlaw as he looked ahead, saying: “We finished third in the Six Nations last year and that is the next competition.
“(So) we will need to be level pegging with that.”
This time round, the Scots have three away games and home fixtures with England and France, the former after a six-day turnaround from the opening fixture.
However, they can take heart from beating Ireland at home last year when it is often overlooked that the Irish finished joint bottom of the table along with France.
What effect an agonising last-play defeat by New Zealand has on Ireland remains to be seen, but Laidlaw will be focusing on Scotland’s own performance.
“It was very frustrating to lose (15-21) to Australia, a tough one to take. The boys really got in amongst them, got stuck in and that is what a good Scottish performance is based on.
“For a lot of the time that was there, but they just took one or two chances. We played well and just slipped up a couple of times. I thought we contained Australia well but there were lapses of concentration. That was the difference.”
Laidlaw will be hoping that, by the time Scotland return to Murrayfield, problems with the pitch, which has been afflicted by parasites causing the turf to cut up, will have been solved.
Despite kicking all 15 points to move above Peter Dods and Kenny Logan for fifth place in the overall Scottish scoring charts behind Chris Paterson, Gavin Hastings, Andy Irvine and Dan Parks, Laidlaw had cause to rue the only kick that got away.
“Kicking was an extra challenge and the last kick I had I slipped and made rubbish contact. That’s why it fell short.
“There was a bit of a slip on my plant foot and when that happens you tend to not connect properly.”
The Aussie game itself was penalty-strewn and Laidlaw made it clear he felt Scotland did not get the rub of the green with some decisions, particularly at the scrum.
“The ref didn’t seem to favour us – for what reason I don’t know.
“A couple of decisions at the scrum never went our way (and) I got the impression they didn’t want to scrum really.
“I felt he gave a couple of soft free kicks to Australia on their put-in, whereas they were pushing early and so on.
“We have a good scrum and it is always disappointing for us when that happens.
“Our line-out was under a bit of pressure and the scrum was a good weapon for us, but we never really got to use it.”
Clearly, there are issues for Scotland to sort out regarding why they were so heavily penalised by Jaco Peyper, of South Africa, and backing from coach Scott Johnson will help.
“It’s very important the coach retains faith in us. Scott is a great coach who is up front with everybody which is the best way to be. He gives the team confidence because of the way he coaches and the way he is,” said Laidlaw, who now switches priorities to focus on helping Edinburgh return to winning ways.
Edinburgh entertain Connacht in the RaboDirect Pro12 on Friday, before facing Gloucester home and away in the European Cup.
“I need to go back to Edinburgh, play well and hold my place in the (Scotland) team,” said Laidlaw.
Meanwhile, his comments on the Murrayfield pitch found an echo with colleagues.
“Our scrum was dominant, but the pitch didn’t let us do much with that,” said David Denton, while Sean Lamont hinted that the surface may have contributed to scoring opportunities being passed up just before half-time when he was given a run to attack into the corner.
“I had the angle, but you can’t really step much on that pitch.It’s a nightmare.
“Of course, the pitch makes a difference. You always want a firm footing,” said Lamont.