SCOTLAND assistant coach Dan McFarland says that the team are still looking to finish top of the Six Nations table this year, despite Saturday’s humiliating 34-7 loss to Wales.
“History would say yes,” he replied, when asked if a first ever championship for the boys in blue in the professional era was still a realistic target. “In 2013, Wales were beaten comfortably by Ireland in the first game at home and won the championship. As far as we’re concerned, as long as it is statistically available for us to win the championship then, yes, we can. We’ll look to win every game from here on in. That will be the mentality, and if I said anything less then you would think it extremely odd, wouldn’t you?”
The Scots have come in for a fair amount of criticism in the few days following that Welsh set-back, with a particular gripe being their naiveté in continuing to try to play their way out of trouble even after it had become abundantly clear that this approach was not getting any purchase. An indignant McFarland gave an exasperated shake of the head when asked if the experience had caused any pause for thought about perhaps adopting a more pragmatic approach.
“I don’t see why we would, it has brought us success. I don’t know whether there is a perception there that this a game of flinging the ball around like a bunch of ‘darlings’ but to me we have tremendous variety in our game,” he insisted.
“We can be direct. We can move the ball if we think there is space. At the weekend, there was space – that was demonstrated when we broke them on numerous occasions, but we just weren’t accurate enough when we did that. We can score tries from mauls. We can kick and we can chase.”
“There are plenty of way for us to play the game, but it doesn’t matter what way you’re playing – if you are not accurate then you are not going to get a foothold in the game.
McFarland rejected the suggestion that Saturday’s calamity was down to the fact that wily Welsh head coach Warren Gatland and his team had sussed the Scots out.
“Not enough to stop us breaking them a lot in the first 20 minutes which we did do. We’re confident that if we do our style of play well, with the variety which we have, then we’ll cause any defence trouble … which we did. We just weren’t accurate with it,” he said.
The message is clear. According to McFarland, a lack of accuracy rather than a flawed philosophy was the undoing of the Scots in Cardiff – but surely the two factors are inter-linked. In any walk of life, there will be days when things just don’t quite click – and the secret to survival is being able to minimise the damage done when that is the case.
Until the team are willing and able to do that, then you can’t help feeling that periodical implosions like the one witnessed at the Principality Stadium on Saturday will continue to undermine the undoubted progress which has been made.