After the shock – and seeing as this is a Scottish based publication and we don’t have to care about neutrality – utterly glorious Calcutta Cup victory of last week, the Scotland camp were under no impressions of the next challenge they face against Wales at an empty BT Murrayfield.
“We just concentrate on our jobs. That is all we are looking at. We are not going to have the home crowd advantage like we normally have so we have to create energy in the right way and make sure we are solid from one to fifteen and enjoying the challenge”, said captain Stuart Hogg, who had one of his best games in years when wearing the Thistle last week, and arguably his best performance since he has become captain.
The shockwaves of last week’s result have been noticed worldwide– how could they not be? – when you consider how far behind the pack Scotland have been in recent years, and breaking the record of having lost at Twickenham since I was still crapping in nappies. 38 long years.
That’s why Hogg isn’t convinced that Scotland are favourites, particularly when coming up against a Wales side loaded with experience and British & Irish Lions.
For example, the seemingly indestructible Alun Wyn Jones has 52 less caps than the entire Scotland forward pack combined. And despite the fact they struggled to beat an Ireland team reduced to 14-men – which was about the same number of minutes that had passed before Peter O’Mahony was red-carded – they have been notoriously tough to break down over the last few years, particularly when Warren Gatland was in charge with Sean Edwards as defence coach.
“I know a fair amount of these Welsh boys. They’re absolutely outstanding individuals and I think they’re going to come here full of beans. They’re ready to put in a big performance both individually and as a team.
“Some people might say they haven’t played their best rugby, but they’re still winning games. They’ve got a lot of experience in there, a lot of talent.
“And that’s the games you want to be involved in, the games that you want to challenge yourself against. There’s nine British Lions in that squad, numerous boys who have won the Grand Slam, so a hell of a lot of experience. We’re going to have to be on the money for 80 minutes and make sure we’re living in every single moment.”
Forwards coach John Dalziel was also quick to establish that they don’t see themselves as favourites, and that him and the rest of the coaching staff had not had to try too hard to remind their charges of it.
“What we’ve talked about all this week is that it was one thing being able to win, it’s another thing to be able to back it up.
“We’re fully aware of the challenges which are coming our way against this Welsh side but we feel we are in a good place and were excited for another challenge.
“As coaches we talk often about how lucky we are to have such a good close group who are really engaged. They want to drive their individual and team game.
“They were looking at the England game on their computers and sending me stuff before we had even got into the review. So that’s excellent. There is no stone left unturned. The boys just want to get better and we know they can. What we’re determined to be as we grow this young group is to not be a team that takes one step forward and two back. That’s the leap we need to take. And that starts by backing up wins and getting consistency in this championship.”
We’ve seen a number of one-off victories against the best sides in the world over the years, but consistency is what makes a good team a great team.
Four 6 Nations wins on the bounce still isn’t enough to convince us long-suffering fans, or even this talented squad containing a handful of world-class players such as Hogg, Finn Russell, Jonny Gray and Hamish Watson to turn the page over and keep getting the “W”s in the table.
“Last week is done with. We can draw a line in the sand – take a huge amount of confidence from it – but understand that this week we are going to have to make it happen again.”
“We’re just focusing on the first 20 minutes and making sure we get that right. If we do get that right then we’ll start to grow in confidence and hopefully as the game goes on we’ll get better and better.” Is this the year that the false-dawns stop? With the current atmosphere in a content seeming, highly-talented squad, let’s keep believing until the dark cloud rises.