Peter McGunnigal reflects on why last week’s loss against England did not define this Scotland team’s season, but how tomorrow’s result could.
Sometimes it really hurts being a Scotland fan, last Saturday was just one of those days.
I was hoping I’d wake up this morning and it would somehow be better, I would have enough perspective to “cognitively reframe” the Twickenham massacre. The bitter disappointment is going nowhere. You can call it a reality check, a learning experience or just a comprehensive beating.
Whichever way you look at it, there have been a few bad defeats in the last few years but none that felt this bad. The World Cup Quarter Final was painful due to the result and circumstances, but I don’t think there was real expectation beforehand. We had struggled past giant-slayers Japan and had a major scare against Samoa in Newcastle.
Fast forward a year and a half and the eternal Scottish hope is actually founded on something. We’d beaten Argentina, backed up our performance against the Wallabies with a single point loss – then came the 6 Nations. The opening win over Ireland – yet still we held our hopes at bay. That was until the Welsh victory a fortnight ago. Even the most cynical Scot struggled to hold back their positivity.
Up until the England game it felt like we were building towards something. Hell, a few of us dared to dream of winning the whole damn thing. Hope was at the highest it’s been in years, then it was ripped away in the most awful way.
I’m not going to dissect the game, I don’t think it’s necessary, we all know how bad it was and how awful it felt. What I am going to do is throw some of that cognitive reframing out there and see what sticks.
Let’s take that pain and drive something positive from it. Let’s not have our entire season be defined by England, as it has so often in the past.
This season we have played 7 and won 4. This Saturday should see us go 5 from 8, that would our best win ratio in a very very long time.
In fact, 3 wins would be our BEST EVER 6 Nations. It may also, depending on other results, actually result in a 2nd place finish. Again that would be our BEST 6 Nations ever!
That’s not to mention the small fact that we’re now 5th in the world. Let’s use that phrase again; it’s a BEST EVER for Scotland.
I’m not getting ahead of myself, Italy are going to be tough on Saturday and whatever we’re missing some key players. You can guarantee that they’ll be looking to recreate the sort of headline winning tactics that grabbed the rugby world’s attention when they played England.
Every year, without fail, they target our fixture as their best chance and, as we all know, it’s oft paid off. Even with all of that, we should go into this game confident and expecting a win.
As a crowd we should all demand a performance on Saturday. This is a good team and one bad performance doesn’t change that. We are ranked 10 places above our opposition and we are right to expect a win as we would against the likes of Samoa, Tonga or Georgia (who are all ranked above Italy). What we cannot do though is sit quietly and wait for it to happen.
Don’t let the England defeat rob us of our voice.
Murrayfield has been a truly wonderful place to be this season; noisy, vibrant and full of life. It’s Vern’s last game, we are fighting for our best ever 6 Nations and a World Rugby ranking that puts us in a great position for the Rugby World Cup draw in May.
We should celebrate the achievements of this team. Let’s give Vern the rousing send off he deserves and welcome Toonie with open arms.
Securing 3 home wins will make OUR MURRAYFIELD an intimidating place to come to next season when we have the best in the world coming to call.
On Saturday, sing your heart out, take pride in your team and cheer the boys to victory and celebrate a great season. Goodness knows we deserve it.