Scotland lock Grant Gilchrist insists head coach Gregor Townsend has the complete backing of the squad, despite the former captain admitting they deviated from his gameplan against Italy.  

It is not the first time this campaign the post-match message has been of the players not delivering on what Townsend and his coaches have put in front of them.  

When Scotland survived by a single point having raced into a 27-0 lead against Wales in the championship opener, Townsend said messages from the coaching box were not being adhered to by the players.  

Then in the defeat to France, Townsend lamented his side for being dragged into a kicking battle in the third quarter. He said they stopped playing their style.  

Scotland Rugby News: Gregor Townsend refused to answer questions over his Scotland future after the loss to ItalyGregor Townsend refused to answer questions over his Scotland future after the loss to Italy (Image: PA)

Now Gilchrist says Scotland went away from the plan they’d been given to beat Italy and threw away a 12-point lead as the Azzurri recorded a first home win in 11 years.  

Gilchrist said: “We felt like we prepared well and the game plan was right but that it didn’t marry up with how we played in that period from around the 33rd to the 70th minute.  

“It’s not how we trained, it’s not the plans the coaches have put in place, so who needs to take responsibility? The guys on the pitch. 

“For 33 minutes we did what we said we were going to do. It was really effective. We should have been further ahead but if we had maintained that level of performance, I have no doubt the result would have taken care of itself.” 

READ MORE: Gregor Townsend defiant over Scotland future after Italy loss

He said there were “dark days” immediately following the defeat, which now leaves Scotland facing the prospect of a bottom-half finish if they do not win at the Aviva Stadium, a venue where Scotland’s recent record makes for difficult reading.  

The Scotland lock added: “We’re devastated with how the game went and the opportunity we let slip by.” 

Rather than the coaches lead Monday’s review session, Gilchrist said the players had to take responsibility for the second half performance.  

"The fact that the performance level dropped has to be to do with the players.  

Scotland Rugby News: Scotland's players felt they did not deliver in the second half against the AzzurriScotland's players felt they did not deliver in the second half against the Azzurri (Image: PA)

“We spoke with the coaches, and they were happy for us as attack and defence leaders to look at the game and present. 

“The biggest thing that came out of that was us looking at our mindset stuff and the things we need to do better when we’re feeling under pressure and the momentum of the game is against us. 

“The coaches pretty much had the same stuff as what the players came back with, so we are clearly really aligned in what we want to be. 

“That is a huge positive, but we’re not delivering that for a full game. We’ve looked at how we can do that, the things we need to do, but it’s about implementing it now.” 

Gilchrist admitted Scotland must do better at stopping their opponents build up a head of steam, something they weren’t able to do for most of the second half in Cardiff and in Rome on Saturday.  

READ MORE: Tandy says Scotland mentally strong despite Six Nations collapses

The 33-year-old Edinburgh man said that was an area they identified as an issue at the Rugby World Cup.  

He said: “We need to be stronger mentally, we need to manage momentum in games better, and clearly it’s still a work in progress.  

“There’s no quick fixing these things. A lot of these games are against top quality opposition. We’re trying to learn how we can get better. It was clear at the weekend the blueprint of how we can play and we did go away from that.  

“Without intentionally doing it we got way too loose. All our good play came from direct physical carries, great breakdown work, quick ball that then created opportunities.  

“We maybe got a little bit lost in the offload or the pass that unlocked them and didn’t really respect the fact that it was the hard work and the breakdown work that Italy couldn’t handle in that first 20 minutes.” 

Scotland again lost the penalty count against Italy and Gilchrist conceded that is another area where they must improve ahead of the trip to the Aviva Stadium.

READ MORE: Grant Gilchrist opens up on pain of Rugby World Cup defeat to Ireland  

He added: “That’s now two occasions where we’re being heavily penalised by the ref and we’re not finding a way of getting him back onside. That’s something we’ve looked at.” 

He also had a message for supporters who have called into question whether this Scotland team can become genuine title challengers. 

“All I can say to the supporters, and I hope they know it, is that this group of players is so committed to putting their body on the line.  

“We need to be smarter, get our tactics right in these big games, at big moments we need to be adaptable and change the way we play, we need to react to referees and opposition and momentum swings.  

Scotland Rugby News: Grant Gilchrist in training with ScotlandGrant Gilchrist in training with Scotland (Image: SNS)

“I can’t see any of our supporters thinking we’re not committed to the jersey and don’t put absolutely everything into every week and every Test match.” 

Scotland will need to fix all those problem areas if they are to cause a huge upset against the title-chasing Irish.  

He said: “There are going to be times on Saturday when the momentum is against us, so we will have a chance to prove we can cope with that."