Scott Johnson last night said his Scotland side had been guilty of naivety as they opened their RBS 6 Nations Championship account with a 28-6 defeat by Ireland in Dublin.

It was the Scots' heaviest margin of defeat in the tournament for seven years and it came at the start of a week in which the team will have only a six-day turnaround time before they take on England at Murrayfield next Saturday.

Johnson also said that inexperience had played a part in the Scots' performance, although four of his starting line-up had more than 50 caps. Scotland also had a far smoother build-up to the match than Ireland, who lost their talismanic captain and lock, Paul O'Connell, just a few hours before kick-off due to a chest infection. However, Johnson said that he was confident that his players would improve through more exposure to top-level rugby.

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"There was a naivety about us today," said the coach. "We had ball in their 22 that we couldn't convert, we either turned it over or got penalised. But I thought we showed good intent, that's the irony and disappointment of it.

"We let ourselves down a couple of times, turned over the ball in valuable position. They scored [their second try] off a maul and then we were caught between chasing the game and solidifying our position. We're trying things to win the game.

"For 10 minutes we looked terrific but we need to convert things. This is where it's my job to see a silver lining. I think we have inexperience in our backline; they're still growing as players, but they're doing the hard bits quite well. It's the finishing off."

The Scots did suffer a blow with the loss of their Lions wing Sean Maitland after half an hour. Maitland suffered an ankle injury and now looks almost certain to miss next weekend's Calcutta Cup match in Edinburgh. Max Evans, who came on as the replacement, agreed that Scotland had not reached the standards they had set for themselves.

"This wasn't the result we were after and not really the performance we were after as well," said Evans. "It's all right losing a game if you've pushed the opposition to the wire and put in a good performance, but we didn't."

Where Scotland did look light in terms of experience was in the midfield, where Duncan Taylor and Alex Dunbar boasted just 11 caps between them - a total made to look more modest still on a day when Brian O'Driscoll, the legendary Irish centre, was setting a new national record by making his 129th appearance for his country.

However, Evans refused to single out Taylor and Dunbar or any of the other less experienced players in the side.

"Although those guys are young players, they are playing week in week out in professional rugby," he said. "They have been putting in good performances to get themselves the opportunity they had today.

"Obviously, this is on a different level, not just in terms of international rugby but also in this being the first Six Nations game for a few of them, but you have to deal with that.

"I'm sure those guys are just as frustrated as the rest of us. I'm not picking out those guys. I'm saying they will be just as frustrated as the rest of us because this was not the consistent performance we wanted."

Ireland's victory sets them up for a showdown against Wales next weekend that could turn out to be a title decider. The match has added spice as Wales coach Warren Gatland dropped O'Driscoll for the final Lions Test in Australia last year. However, the Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip, who took over the role from O'Connell, said his players will be concentrating on other matters.

"Huge improvements will be needed for next week," Heaslip said. Joe [Schmidt, the Ireland coach] had a couple of choice words for us in the changing rooms afterwards, and I'm sure there will be more on Monday night.

"It will be a huge

challenge to go up against a team that's won this championship two years in a row."