Monday 16 September 2019

Scots seek to restore confidence after not-so-nice Nice drubbing

John Barclay. Photo: Ian Walton/Sportsfile
John Barclay. Photo: Ian Walton/Sportsfile

Richard Bath

Scotland's "disappointing" 32-3 defeat in France at the weekend means that when coach Gregor Townsend announces the team tomorrow for the return fixture at Murrayfield, he may pick a far stronger side than first envisaged, according to flanker John Barclay.

After conceding five tries and being outclassed by Jacques Brunel's side, Barclay believes that Scotland's need to restore confidence with a solid display on Saturday trumps developmental requirements ahead of the World Cup.

"We'll look at this (defeat) and think of it as a blip in pre-season, but if that happens twice in a row you're not thinking the same thing," said the former Scotland captain.

Whether Barclay is available for selection was still to be confirmed when he spoke in the aftermath of defeat in Nice. The 32-year-old veteran needed attention from the doctor after Paul Gabrillagues steamed in at a ruck and cleared Barclay out with a no-arms shoulder charge to the Scot's head.

"I got hit straight on the head with a shoulder," Barclay said. "I thought it was just one of those things, but then I started to feel ill and thought I was going to be sick. I feel fine now and think it was just a nervous response. It wasn't a head knock, it was more a neck knock."

Not that Barclay believes that, even if fit as expected, he will get a run on Saturday. With blindside Blade Thomson still to make his debut, Magnus Bradbury likely to be in the mix, Hamish Watson set to return given Scotland's travails at the breakdown in Nice, and Sam Skinner slated to be involved, Barclay knows he may have to bide his time.

"After you've been beaten like that you can't expect to play," he said.

Barclay was not the only member of the Scotland team to feel battered and bruised by the end. With the Scotland forwards struggling at scrum-time and blown away at the breakdown, the visiting backs received precious little front-foot ball and the forwards were playing catch-up from the moment the French scored their first try with less than two minutes on the clock.

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"We were too tight in defence and not getting around the corner. It felt like we were all at sea and trying to find a solution," he said. "We didn't attack very well with the ball and we didn't defend very well, so it was a bit of a wake-up call, but it's better for it to happen now, and that's probably how we'll look back on it."

After missing out on the last World Cup when twice overlooked by Vern Cotter, Barclay admits that making the 31-man squad for Japan has been the focal point of the past four years, so the defeat in France was a shock.

"I'm desperate to go to Japan, so my ideal scenario would have been to come to Nice and have a great game and for us to win, and for us to be drinking champagne after the match. It's not quite worked out like that, but you've just got to get yourself up, dust yourself down and go again."

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