Scotland head coach Vern Cotter is committed to Scotland beyond the World Cup but believes he needs to “change the mindset” of the team in the few short months before the tournament.
The New Zealander denied that he had a “get-out” clause in his contract which would allow him to take up a post in France rumoured to be big-spending Top 14 side Bordeaux-Begles and instead pledged himself for the long haul despite the whitewash, wooden spoon and 40-10 hammering by Ireland to round off a desperate RBS 6 Nations for Scotland.
However that haul is going to be a gruelling one with Cotter indicating that the long training camp prior to RWC 2015 in England would involve a whole lot of going back to basics.
“I have the World Cup, the Six Nations after that,” he said in the aftermath of the loss to the championship-winning Irish. “I am not aware of any contact whatsoever with anybody else.
“I didn’t have to come here, I keep repeating that. Today was enormously frustrating but I really want to get back to winning and developing and seeing these guys developing.
“Do I understand how the fans feel? Yes I do. We all do. It has been a bad championship, absolutely. These are things in front of us and we have to address them.”
Scotland’s problems have mostly manifested themselves after half-time, with no points in the second half of three of the games France, England and Ireland on Saturday and just three points in second 40 in the loss to Italy, but Cotter doesn’t think the Scottish gameplan’s being rumbled.
“We lose possession too easily,” he said. “We are not able to build pressure and teams are feeding off that.
“We have to be hard on ourselves and make sure every possession counts. Every action in the game is a moment of truth. It is frustrating we cannot maintain intensity, we do put teams under pressure but don’t maintain it.”
Cotter believes Scotland crucially lost momentum and confidence after the defeat to Wales in the second game.
“That had an ongoing effect on results. We have to understand games are built, constructed from one line-out to another, one phase to another. As soon as we lose a little bit of confidence we end up playing catch up rugby. Catch up rugby is not constructive rugby.”
After eight uninterrupted weeks together brought a whitewash, the coach is pinning his hopes on the three months he’ll have the players prior to the Rugby World Cup, which starts for Scotland against Japan at Gloucester on September 23, after four warm-up games.
“We get to work with the players for three months before we go into the World Cup and there will be scenarios that we can perform, we can develop good habits and build games.
“We need to do the simple things really well. We also need a mindset change. We need to play rugby that has initiative and when we get a grip of the opposition, we shake them.”
Cotter said that he hoped to have defensive lynchpin Alex Dunbar back before the Rugby World Cup, although five and a half months out is the best case scenario for the player who suffered an ACL tear during training prior to the England game.
“We also lost Richie Gray and Sean Lamont, and Finn Russell for a game as well. They are major losses to us, there are no two ways about it.
“We were unable to keep the same team on the paddock. We missed players at the start of the competition, David Denton was not available, nor Adam Ashe. But it’s not an excuse. We need to be able to adapt.”
Skipper Greig Laidlaw said the championship was “down there with my worst feelings” but believes it can be sorted.
“Things can be fixed by the World Cup,” he said. “This was the Six Nations. We have more time together (before RWC) and that time will be very, very precious indeed.
“Then we have four games leading into the World Cup and we will have precious, precious time together and build.”
Tight-head Euan Murray, setting a cap record for Scottish props but lasting just 12 minutes, suffered concussion while Mark Bennett is also under the head injury assessment.