Andy Robinson has entered a period of introspection over his future as Scotland head coach after his players searched for the positives from a Six Nations campaign which ended with them in last place in the table.
Scotland were beaten by Italy in Rome on Saturday, consigning them to a Six Nations whitewash for the first time since 2004, their winless sequence of seven Tests their worst run since 1998. Robinson, under contract until the 2015 World Cup, insisted he would reflect and await the findings of a review before deciding his future.
Scotland appeared close to producing a positive result following defeats to England, Wales and France but the displays against Ireland and Italy were dispiriting and Robinson now has two wins from 15 Six Nations matches at the helm.
Whether Robinson sees enough in the young players at his disposal – among them Richie Gray, Ross Rennie, David Denton, Greig Laidlaw, Stuart Hogg and Lee Jones – to encourage him to stay in his position remains to be seen. Denton, the 22-year-old Edinburgh No 8, has impressed and spoke on behalf of the squad in wanting Robinson to remain in charge: "We all hope he'll stay," Denton said. "I think we can build something special under him, with the group we've got. I think we can be a force to be reckoned with."
Robinson has already begun a coaching overhaul and the Rome defeat was the final match for Graham Steadman and Gregor Townsend, the defence and attack coach, respectively.
Scott Johnson will join as senior assistant coach and Matt Taylor as defence coach, appointments which suggest Robinson is committed to the cause despite the damning series of results.
Denton, who has six caps after starting all games, added: "It's been a disappointing tournament for us and you could see that in the boys. We've put everything in. We've got a lot of belief in ourselves. This has been the steepest learning curve I've ever experienced in my life and I think a lot of the other younger boys would say that. There's no doubt the talent that we have and we know we can take it forward.
"The first three games were tough. We were right in the game in all three. The English game we should've won, the French game we should've won, the Welsh game – if we had 15 men on the field – we would've won. It's really tough. I think it's just we need to learn what to do in those last minutes of the game."
Mike Blair, the most experienced member of the squad with 81 caps, struggled to find the positives of the defeat but concurred with Denton on the potential for future progress.
The 30-year-old scrum-half said: "It's hard to reflect on exactly what it was that went wrong. The guys are absolutely gutted and we'll have to continue to work hard and make that breakthrough. We've seen positive things.
"We've got building blocks to work with but this wasn't good enough. We don't turn up every week to lose. We turn up with a lot of spirit, a lot of talent and we need to trust that, keep working at it and look for that breakthrough."
Scorers: Italy: Try Venditti Conversion Burton Penalty Bergamasco Drop-goal Burton Scotland: Penalties Laidlaw 2.
Italy: A Masi (Aironi), G Venditti (Aironi), T Benvenuti (Benetton Treviso), G Canale (Clermont), M Bergamasco (Aironi), K Burton (Benetton Treviso), E Gori (Benetton Treviso), A Lo Cicero (Racing Métro), F Ongaro ( Aironi), M Castrogiovanni (Leicester Tigers), Q Geldenhuys ( Aironi), M Bortolami (Aironi), A Zanni (Benetton Treviso), R Barbieri (Benetton Treviso), S Parisse (Capt, Stade Français). Replacements: G Toniolatti (Aironi) for G Canale, 69; T Botes (Benetton Treviso) for E Gori, 66; L Cittadini (Benetton Treviso) for A Lo Cicero, 52; T D'Apice (Aironi) for F Ongaro, 59; J Furno (Aironi) for Q Geldenhuys, 75; M Vosawai (Benetton Treviso) for R Barbieri, 56; S Favaro (Aironi) for T Botes, 71.
Scotland: S Hogg (Glasgow Warriors), M Evans (Castres), N De Luca (Edinburgh), G Morrison (Glasgow Warriors), S Lamont (Scarlets), G Laidlaw (Edinburgh), M Blair (Edinburgh), A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), R Ford (Capt, Edinburgh), G Cross (Edinburgh), R Gray (Glasgow Warriors), J Hamilton (Gloucester), J Barclay (Glasgow Warriors), R Rennie (Edinburgh), D Denton (Edinburgh). Replacements: R Jackson (Glasgow Warriors) for G Laidlaw, 69; E Murray (Newcastle Falcons) for G Cross, 52; A Kellock (Glasgow Warriors) for R Gray, 54; R Vernon (Sale) for J Barclay, 69.
Referee A Rolland (Ireland).
Italy Points Scotland
1 Tries 0
1/1 Conversions 0/0
1/3 Penalties 2/3
1/2 Drop goals 0/0
Phases of play
4/0 Scrums won/lost 7/0
14/2 Line-outs won/lost 6/6
9 Pens conceded 13
3 Mauls won 0
38 Ruck and drive 17
51 Ruck and pass 24
167 Passes completed 86
1 Line breaks 0
18 Possession kicked 20
4 Kicks to touch 11
53/3 Tackles made/missed 109/4
9 Offloads in tackle 4
12 Total errors made 8
92 In open play 41
19 In opponents' 22 5
31 At set-pieces 22
6 Turnovers won 4