Scotland stand-off Finn Russell isn’t mentally drained from Scotland’s run of hard luck Six Nations stories and can’t wait to get out on the training field and to Rome for the next leg.
Veteran wing Sean Lamont, a late call-up on Saturday for his 102nd cap, said afterwards he feared for the mental well-being of some of the squad after the 27-23 loss to Wales in Cardiff racked up Scotland’s ninth successive loss in the championship.
Despite the optimism of the World Cup there’s still a number of regulars in the squad including Russell, Mark Bennett, Jonny Gray, John Hardie and WP Nel who have not experienced a win yet in the championship.
The clash in Rome in two weeks looms large with the Scots retiring back to Murrayfield to regroup this week, but the ever-enthusiastic Russell thinks that the long-awaited success isn’t far away.
“I definitely believe we are getting closer to a win,” he said. “We were 13-10 up at half-time and we made a couple of mistakes that let Wales into the game after half-time.
“This was definitely a step forward. We took the initiative and went at them the whole game. There were so many positives but just a few simple errors that cost us.”
As for Italy, he can’t wait to start preparations.
“I can’t wait to get into it. We have training next week so we will get as much out of next week as we can,” he said.
“I guess it is good to get a weekend off now, but the sooner the game comes for us the better, I think.”
Russell thought the way the team fought back from Gareth Davies’ controversial early try the Welsh scrum-half looked to be in an offside position twice before he collected a loose ball and ran in, but referee George Clancy and the TMO decided otherwise shows that the team is building resilience.
“We equalled that pretty quickly,” he pointed out. “We came back from that and came right back into it with a great try.
“Also near the end we showed that determination, threw the ball around and Duncan Taylor scored a great try.
“On the other hand it’s disappointing because their tries should have been stopped. But they took their chances well.”
Neither head coach Vern Cotter nor captain Greig Laidlaw dwelled long on the Davies’ try, more the response to it, the 21-phase attack that led to the equalising score from Tommy Seymour.
“It would have been easy to say ‘it shouldn’t have been’ but the guys didn’t have that attitude,” said Cotter.
“They had a positive approach to the game, got their hands on the ball and scored a try. I thought that was a big improvement, and I thought scoring a try at the end of the game was an improvement as well.
“If we want to play like that I think it is a great thing. We held the ball for a long period of time and I think that’s encouraging, the guys can take confidence from that.
“It may not be the way we choose to play against Italy, but it certainly gives us confidence to do that if we decide to.”
Cotter added that he expected two sessions this week to concentrate mostly on setpiece, although key figure Richie Gray is one of the foreign-based players going back to their clubs.
“Other players will come back into the reckoning,” continued Cotter. “Peter Horne might be back, Josh Strauss as well. Grant Gilchrist can’t be far away. There are a few players who might enter the fray and make themselves available for the next game, which is pleasing.”
Seymour, who in addition to scoring a try and blunting Wales’ aerial attack was still in a support boot after an ankle injury yesterday. Sean Maitland, who was pulled out at the 11th hour, will have his hamstring problem monitored at his club, London Irish.
Stuart Hogg was substituted with back spasms after less than half an hour but his condition is not giving cause for concern, according to a medical statement released yesterday.