• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

England rout sends Scott into hiding

It never quite reached the stage where he started lying about his line of work, but there were plenty of times last week when Matt Scott would probably have preferred to tell the world he was a housebreaker, a male escort or a hedge-fund manager.

In a rare moment, Matt Scott goes on a run against England last weekend. 'We all know what we as individuals did wrong,' he says                                                         Photograph: Getty
In a rare moment, Matt Scott goes on a run against England last weekend. 'We all know what we as individuals did wrong,' he says Photograph: Getty

Anything but admit to being a Scotland rugby player.

Scott is not the sort of fellow to wallow in self-reproach, but he took last weekend's 20-0 loss to England hard. Harder than he had taken any other defeat in his life. And it began the moment he opened his eyes on Sunday morning. "It's weird," he says. "There is a moment when you think, what day is it? What did I do yesterday? And then, oh God, yeah. Which isn't nice, obviously."

He jokes about whimpering quietly in a darkened room, but the reality wasn't so far from that. When he popped out to the shops for a pint of milk, he would probably have worn a false beard if he had had one handy. "There was the enormity of the game, the occasion and the build-up," he explains. "It is a game that your friends and family take more interest in, so you don't really want to let them down.

"The main thing that got me was that we didn't give people any reason to cheer at all. We didn't put England under any pressure and that really got to me. I found it hard to get over the game. Usually, I'm quite a positive character, but I was pretty down for a couple of days. I didn't speak to my mum and dad. I just hid away and kept myself to myself, which is probably not a great thing to do."

But today, Scott is sitting on a desk in the Murrayfield press room. Loose-limbed and relaxed, the weight of the world has been lifted off his shoulders. But there is still a grimace now and then, a wince. Having written that big fat zero into the history books - it was the first time for 36 years that Scotland had failed to register a point against England - the details of the game were as depressing as the scoreline.

Scott says: "There were a number of factors why we lost the game. There was no lack of endeavour from the players, and everyone was pretty much out on their feet by the end. It was just a lack of execution in what we were trying to do. When we got the ball in hand, it looked a bit disjointed and everyone was flat.

"We didn't have any momentum, we didn't get any rhythm or pace. It was all a bit stagnant. I think I touched the ball three or four times. You're looking for your 12 to be one of your main ball-carriers and you can't really make an impact doing that.

"We wanted to put pressure on their set-piece, but that didn't happen. We lost a lot of line-outs, which doesn't help you. They were getting our ball from the line-out and catching us flat-footed. It was tough."

The 23-year-old has an easy get-out, but he doesn't want to play that card. Doesn't want to dwell on the fact he had not started a game for three months, that his recovery from a hand injury had been interrupted by a hamstring problem, or that his season's total of activity before the autumn Tests amounted to just three-and-a-half games. "I would never use that as an excuse," he says firmly. "I know I wasn't fully match sharp, but I still set myself the same standards that I would before any game."

Scott admits that he found professional rugby a bit of a breeze in his breakthrough 2011/12 season. There was that run to the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup with Edinburgh and then a victory over Australia in his first start for Scotland. But along the way there was one experience that told him that what the rugby Gods giveth, the rugby Gods taketh away.

It happened in Rome's Stadio Olimpico, when Scott was on duty as Scotland's travelling reserve. In what was to be former coach Andy Robinson's last Six Nations match in charge, Scotland slumped to a 13-6 defeat with a desperate, disjointed, soulless performance. Bad enough watching from the stands, but what Scott found in the dressing room afterwards was worse.

"I remember going in there and there were boys crying," he says. "Everyone was completely gutted and it was just a horrible place. The whole enormity of that occasion and the pressure of it being the Wooden Spoon decider just got to everyone."

Maybe not the sort of image to conjure ahead of Saturday's return to the Eternal City. Certainly not one that Scott Johnson will be employing, for, as Scott says, the interim head coach does not go in for roasting players alive.

"There was no formal sit down," Scott says of events after last weekend's match. "It was all pretty quiet, everyone just gets on with it. But it was a really horrible atmosphere. A morbid atmosphere.

"When we got back to the hotel a few hours later he [Johnson] said a few words, just trying to pick us up. He's been in this situation before with Wales, when I think they lost 11 games in a row and went on to win a Grand Slam. He can see a lot of similarities between the stage that this team is at and the stage the Welsh team were at then. He was just trying to say stick together and stay positive.

"He's not coming in saying this was awful, we all know what was acceptable and what wasn't acceptable. He's quite good in that respect, I like that, I don't know if I could handle a coach telling you how bad you were. We all know what we as individuals did wrong."

Contextual targeting label: 
Sport

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

213119