ShOULD he have failed to realise it previously, Matt Scott learned last year that poor performances can have fateful consequences.
The 22-year-old centre was drafted into a Scotland squad that began 2011 with an RBS 6 Nations whitewash and ended it with the 21-15 defeat to Tonga that sounded the final death knell for Andy Robinson's reign as head coach.
For Scott, the Pittodrie loss served as a stark reminder that his own place in the national side is not all that is on the line each time he pulls on the dark blue jersey. "It was tough watching Andy resign," he admitted. "That really rams it home to you just what the consequences are of a poor result like that.
Loading article content
"We're talking about someone's livelihood here. I'm still young and it was the first time I've experienced something like that and it wasn't nice. It doesn't leave you feeling great when a guy loses his job because you've had a bad afternoon."
It is fair to say the Edinburgh player's introduction to the international game has been something of a rollercoaster ride. He was unable to stem the tide when he made his debut as a substitute as Scotland went down 32-14 to Ireland in the penultimate match of last year's Six Nations.
In his next three appearances, though, Scott played a crucial role as they returned from a tour of the Southern Hemisphere unbeaten after a first win over the Wallabies in Australia in 1982, as well as victories over Fiji and Samoa.
However, the autumn Test series brought three straight defeats to New Zealand, South Africa and the Tongans. "It's a hard one to balance out," Scott said. "I played in all the games on the summer tour. We won all three and I was beginning to think playing for Scotland was great as you just won all the time.
"Then the autumn internationals came and it was a different story. The defeat to Tonga was just awful; I don't think I've ever played in as bad a team performance as that. You can't point your finger at anyone in particular; we were all terrible."
Despite the upheaval that followed the loss to Tonga, Scott is hopeful of a positive Six Nations campaign this time under Scott Johnson. "I'm looking forward to this year's competition," he said. "I didn't really feel part of it last year as I wasn't involved in any of the squads until I got a last-minute call-up for the Ireland game. I only got about 20 minutes, so it felt like I was a bit-part player, really.
"This year I'm hoping to play a much bigger part. I loved the Six Nations as a kid and used to come to all the games. The atmosphere was always incredible and to think I may be about to play a big part in that is amazing. We all know Scott and it allows him to come in and take the team while the SRU consider the best move. It should at least make the next few months a bit more stable."
Scotland start their campaign at Twickenham next Saturday and Scott knows a first win on English soil in 30 years would send the squad's morale soaring. "England will be on a high after beating New Zealand, but it's a game we know we can get up for and that gives us a chance," he said. "If you can get a win in that first game, especially over your oldest rivals, then that can really set you up for your whole championship. Your confidence just explodes."
"It's been a long time since Scotland have won the competition and I'd say it comes down to consistency. We are capable of beating teams like England or Australia on our day but we need to then back them up with more results, which we've not done in recent years. It's about time we got a win in this tournament but we need to play much better and do it more often."