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'The England game is gone and we need to move on'

YOU have only to think back to Andy Murray bursting into tears on Centre Court when he lost a Wimbledon final a couple of years ago to realise how much emotion is involved in top-level sport.

Greig Laidlaw says Scotland must focus on their remaining matches. Picture: SNS/SRU
Greig Laidlaw says Scotland must focus on their remaining matches. Picture: SNS/SRU

The Scotland rugby team may have kept their heartache behind closed doors after their RBS 6 Nations performance against England, but it is clear their devastation has been just as sincere.

Whether they can emulate Murray, who the following year became the first British player in 77 years to claim the Wimbledon crown, by beating Italy in Rome on Saturday is hard to predict but Greig Laidlaw, the Scotland captain, says one thing he can be sure of is that there will be no lack of effort or passion.

It has, he admits, been a tough time since the Calcutta Cup whitewash at Murrayfield. "As players we're more annoyed than anybody else," said the Edinburgh scrum-half. "Of course we want to win and we're absolutely gutted about the way the first two games turned out. Unfortunately it's gone, so we need to park it, learn from it, move on, and focus all our energy on this weekend and the last three games of the tournament."

"It hasn't been easy but you can't feel sorry for yourself for too long in sport, especially at this level because if we're still feeling sorry for ourselves when we take the field this weekend that will have ramifications for the way the result pans out.

"We've cleared the decks, we've trained well, and we've had a good, positive week. We've looked at the England game. There's no doubt it was disappointing but we have looked at the facets of play that let us down. Then you go out and train hard, and get the energy up from the start. There were mistakes made that we don't want to make again."

A win in Italy, where Scotland have lost on their last three visits, could have an immense effect. With three games to go, a title is pretty much out of the question but a respectable finish is still arithmetically possible. "In terms of the Six Nations it's absolutely massive for us to win this weekend," Laidlaw added: "If we can win this game, we've got France here a couple of weeks after that and that's also a game I believe we can win.

"Scotland haven't won in Italy since 2006, so it's going to be tough. But if we can win that big game, come back here, get a result against France, then we're starting to look up."

Predictably, Laidlaw endorsed the changes made to the pack, but he also knows that if the forwards can get on top then it is up to him and Duncan Weir, the fly half, to make sure Scotland take advantage - and that, as the more senior player with international experience in both roles, he has to be the one to take charge.

"The first two matches have been tough for us because we've been on the back foot," Laidlaw added. "Dunc [Weir] had a tough time in the last game but he'll come again. He is settling into that role and has trained well this week. If you're on the back foot, when you're a 10 and all the traffic is coming through your channel, sometimes it can turn into a lonely place. It's very important for your back row and your No.9 to help out as much as they can."

Weir admitted he found life difficult in the aftermath of the England match, going out on his own to walk his dog and wanting to duck out of his local supermarket when he realised he had been recognised. Friends and family have helped him rally, though, and he says he is ready for the Italy test.

"After the England game it was pretty dark," he said. "You couldn't take many positives away from that. Everybody went into their shells a little bit and a lot of soul searching was done. My body and mind weren't in good shape but after my week off I'm raring to go again.

"It's a huge learning curve for me. I've never been under as much pressure as I was in that game. We need to learn fast but we are an ambitious squad and I believe in the squad. This group of players have been charged with the task of putting right the wrongs of that game."

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