Maitland: Scots must get back to basics

Sean Maitland
Sean Maitland
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Calm has returned to Scottish rugby after the Six Nations defeat by Italy literally proved to be a shattering experience.

After the final whistle sounded on Scotland’s third single-score setback of this championship, against the Italians at BT Murrayfield, it was apparent a glass side panel on the home coaching box to the rear of the lower tier of the West stand had paid a high price.

Nobody has been identified as responsible and it now seems words spoke louder than actions when the inquest resumed, according to Sean Maitland.

Called up as injury cover despite not starting a match since January 25 due to shoulder damage, Maitland was asked how the first training session ahead of Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash with England had gone and he referred to the off-field incident.

“Just a normal standard meeting,” said Maitland, adding wryly “no glass broken!”

So, the benchmark for Scottish frustration has been set with Maitland revealing, too, that the team needn’t be down for long.

“There were a lot of questions asked. We shouldn’t have lost like that.

“We want to finish this tournament well and we believe in our ability. It is just finishing off the half chances we create.

“It is just that last pass. We did it against France, making these breaks, and couple of times against Wales. The Italy game was probably the biggest disappointment.

“It comes down to basics done well, catching and passing.

“I think it is all about skills under pressure. It’s easy to go on the training pitch and go through all your moves but when it is crunch time skills under pressure are tested.

“In the first two games Hoggy and Arg [Alex Dunbar], guys like that, were not really finishing them off.”

Maitland made his international debut in this fixture in London two years ago. He scored an early try that gave Scotland the lead but the hosts quikly fought back. “I remember we were humbled (18-38),” he said.

When it came to drawing on some of the positives for the trip south, at least defence coach Matt Taylor was able to come up with reasons to be cheerful.

Asked if Scotland were in danger of losing respect, Taylor took solace from an unlikely source. “I don’t see it that way... there’s even a quite good article on the England website saying how much they respect us,” said Taylor.

That article states: “Vern Cotter’s charges represent a stern challenge. Even without taking into account the ardent motivation generated by the Calcutta Cup rivalry, England’s Auld Enemy have been playing some extremely enterprising rugby at times.”

It goes on to highlight “key performers” as Jonny Gray, Alex Dunbar, Blair Cowan, Stuart Hogg and Mark Bennett.

Here, though, Scotland will be keen to stress these are just words with reminders being issued that when it comes to running out on the pitch only actions will count.

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if Stuart McInally, the other player called up alongside Maitland, will be figuring in a matchday squad as fellow hooker Ross Ford battles a back problem.

“Stuart has been earmarked for a long time,” said Taylor of a player converted from back row 18 months ago. “We’ve brought him into the squad to have a look at him. We’re showing him how things are done and integrating him.

“We’re building good depth. Edinburgh have shown in the last six months they are building and getting better and will only become better.”