LIES; damn lies and statistics; Disraeli’s indictment of the misleading misuse of numbers as perfectly illustrated by a look at Scotland’s recent away record. The bare facts show that since the last World Cup, they have played 15 games outside the country and won seven of them. So, crisis? What crisis!
It is so misleading. Just look at who they were playing in those games. Italy account for three of those wins, including one in neutral Singapore, Japan for two, Canada one more. Only the win in Sydney a year ago counts as a significant achievement. In the meantime they have played 13 at home, winning 10 and beating every major country they have faced at least once – with the notable exception of New Zealand.
So today’s match in Argentina counts as chance to start correcting that flaw with time running out before they fly to the World Cup in Japan where the hosts, Ireland and probably Samoa will pose serious challenges to Scotland’s ability to Travel and win.
So for captain Stuart McInally, who will be making his first appearance in the role after picking up a calf injury the day before the tour party set off, it is not just a case of re-setting the outlook after their dispiriting defeat to the USA but trying to shift them onto the virtuous path of being able to win outside their comfort zone.
The game is being played in a Local football ground, complete with the fencing and barbed wire to keep the fans off the pitch, one of the quirkier stadiums McInally says that he has played in.
“It will be really loud, very similar to the Aviva [Stadium] in terms of how loud they were in the Six Nations, they are going to be behind them but we have a game plan and a group of players determined to finish this season on a high,” McInally said.
“We can’t wait for it, you want to be playing in great atmospheres so this will be one of them, a great challenge.”
The secret has been to take the team back to what they know they can do well, he added. “It’s been a week of getting back to basics for us, that’s the language we have been using.
“It is just a case of what makes us tick and what makes us play well – that is a case of being physical in defence and playing fast rugby.
“You are not going to see anything different to what we did in the Six Nations and in that Canada game. We just want to get back to when Scotland play well.
“Our defence was good against Canada, but the USA were more physical than us. We have to be more physical like we were in that first game. That USA game we did not look after the ball particularly well so we have to keep our accuracy high.”
The rest of the team are on the same wavelength, especially the handful of older, more experienced heads scattered round the side like Peter Horne, one of five players in the starting XV with more than 30 caps.
“There’s often times in your career, even within certain games, where you refer back to certain moments. Hopefully this weekend we can create a couple of those moments where we can then say, ‘right, we’ve been here before and we dug it out’,” Horne said.
“We’re all sick of hearing about it, but it’s never going to change until we actually change it on the field. We’re well aware of that, the coaches are well of that and that’s why this weekend is even more exciting.
“It’s not a great place where we’re staying, there’s a wee bit of adversity there with a big, noisy crowd and it will be a really big test of character,” the 28-year-old added.
“If we get a good win this weekend, we can start trying to build momentum through the autumn. We need to get better at beating lesser opposition, no disrespect to America and Canada, and we also need to start winning away from home in brutal environments. This will be noisy, it will be loud, and that gives me goosebumps straight away just thinking about it.”
He has an important role, not just as a playmaker at inside centre, but also as the older head alongside Adam Hastings at fly-half and his younger brother George at scrum-half, who took a bit of lifting after tasting defeat on his Test debut in Houston.
“George is just so competitive, he took it terribly,” said Peter. “He wasn’t happy at all. He’s good – he’s just had to realise that it’s all about this week. As soon as we got off the plane we reviewed the game and since then the focus has switched.
“He’s lucky that he’s got a big brother who’s messed up quite a lot in his life. He was disappointed, but when we spoke about it and went through his game, he actually played quite well.”
Source : HeraldScotland