Monday 16 December 2019

Cotter: We can use Italian job as springboard

Italy20 Scotland 36

Scotland's Tommy Seymour runs in to score a try towards the end of the Six Nations match at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA
Scotland's Tommy Seymour runs in to score a try towards the end of the Six Nations match at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA
Italy's Sergio Parisse is tackled Scotland's Greig Laidlaw (right) and Mark Bennett. Photo: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters
Scotland's Greig Laidlaw is tackled by Italy's Leonardo Ghilardini (right) and Marco Fuser during their Six Nations clash. Photo: /Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters
Italy's Leonardo Ghilardinii scores a try despite the efforts of Scotland's Ross. Photo: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

Richard Bath

Vern Cotter believes Saturday's win over Italy is just the beginning for his Scotland side.

Although he stressed that there are "no guarantees" that Scotland will add to their win tally in this Six Nations, he also restated his faith in the quality of his players and in their capacity to continue to improve.

"This is just the start, we're only just starting on this journey," said the Scotland head coach. "This team can go a lot further, and we can play better than we did against Italy. It was touch and go, but we found a way through and we didn't go into our shells.

"Players looked to find solutions and they stayed connected. We are starting to see cohesion within the group. It does not give you guarantees but we know where we are. The important thing in life is knowing where you are, and that we need to keep working hard."

Although the Scotland coach cautioned against seeing one win against fellow strugglers as a panacea, there was nevertheless a mix of relief and vindication after his first Six Nations win. The character displayed by Scotland when they came under the cosh in the second half, and their willingness to take on Italy out wide were, he believed, key to the win.

"What we saw was a team that was not frightened to lose," said Cotter. "Even though there was pressure on them externally the players did a good job of not letting that take over, and instead used it to apply pressure on the opposition."

Cotter's assessment that the win was fundamentally about character and desire was shared by Tommy Seymour. The Scotland wing's seventh try in eight Tests confirmed both his side's victory and their biggest points total so far in the Six Nations.

"There were technical things as well, but it was more about character," said Seymour. "This team has been desperate for a win in this competition because playing well isn't enough, it's about results. So there was a lot of steely determination to get over the line and get the monkey off our back so that we can drive on from here."

Although Scotland were basking in the afterglow of a much-needed victory and the prospect of a long-awaited beer, it says much for the work ethic that Cotter has undoubtedly instilled in the team that Scotland were already looking ahead to next week's home game against France. Cotter spent more than 20 years in France as a player and then coach, and knows that his old sparring partner Guy Noves will arrive in Edinburgh with a side that will deploy size and unrelenting physicality.

"The challenge is now trying to put in place a plan to help us win against France and that will be tough," said Cotter. "There will be a different atmosphere at training. It won't be complacency it will be just a real desire to keep going forward. But for now we will just enjoy this victory. It is important to celebrate it because it has been a long time coming." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Italy - D Odiete; L Sarto, M Campagnaro, G Garcia, M Bellini; K Haimona, E Gori; A Lovotti (D Giazzon 58), L Ghiraldini (M Zanusso 58), L Citttadini (M Castrogiovanni 58), M Fuser, J Furno (V Bernabo 37), F Minto (A Van Schalkwyk 68), A Zanni, S Parisse.

Scotland - S Hogg; T Seymour, M Bennett (P Horne 64), D Taylor, T Visser (S Lamont 73); F Russell, G Laidlaw; A Dickinson, R Ford (S McInally 64), W Nel, R Gray (T Swinson), J Gray; J Barclay, J Hardie, R Wilson (J Strauss 68).

Ref - G Hughes (England)

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