Scott Johnson, the Scotland head coach, has acknowledged that not even a victory over Italy today will cure their surfeit of problems.
The Scots have suffered two painful defeats, to Ireland and England, as their miserable Six Nations campaign got off to a terrible start. The 20-0 humiliation at the hands of the Auld Enemy in Edinburgh a fortnight ago has been described as the nation’s worst ever display, with Scotland spending just 3 per cent of the game in the English 22 as they failed to register a point against England for the first time since 1978.
Their meeting with the Azzurri at the Stadio Olimpico could now settle who takes home the wooden spoon, but Johnson concedes not even a morale-boosting triumph in Rome will guarantee that his side have turned the corner.
“There is no doubt, we would take a win,” he admitted. “It would be good for the guys but it won’t be the end of all our ills either. I keep talking about it, we want consistency in this team.
“We could win ugly and everyone would feel good about themselves. But that is only a temporary measure. That’s one of my issues with Scottish rugby. We seem to settle for these little peaks and then the troughs. Yes, a win would be great for morale, but let’s not delude ourselves, we have to do it more often.”
The Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg agreed with his coach that redemption is a long way off, but the British & Irish Lion hopes the journey starts in Rome. “I think it will put us in a good place if we win here,” he said. “It could kick-start our Six Nations campaign. It will take a few wins to get that monkey off our back but, hopefully, this is where it starts.”
Johnson has been on the receiving end of some personal jibes in the wake of the England defeat. However, the proud Australian insisted his players are big enough to shrug off the criticism. “These guys are professional people. They take the plaudits when they come, so they can take the flak now,” he said. “At the end of the day, they just need to get on with it. ”