SCOTLAND skipper Stuart Hogg insisted that his team will look to themselves rather than blame the quality of the opposition when trying to explain why they came up well short against France in yesterday’s match at Murrayfield. 

“They were very good but we coughed up possession which left us with an unstructured defence and allowed them to get huge momentum,” he reasoned. “And, to be fair, when they get on the front foot they are one of the world’s best at finishing off opportunities. 

“We knew fine well coming into the game that mistakes would happen, and it was about how we bounced back. So, they were very strong, but I don’t focus on what’s in front of us, I focus on ourselves and how we can improve. 

“In my position [as a full-back], I watch a large majority of the game from behind the action, so I can see where we need to get better, and for us today it was bitterly disappointing that we couldn’t get dominant collisions and stop them on the gain-line. 

“We made it quite difficult for ourselves and France were very clinical with ball in hand. 

“Then, at other times, we created some good opportunities and didn’t capitalise – I think in the first half, we let two try-scoring opportunities go,” he continued. “And defensively at times we gave France momentum and they managed to score on the back of that. I think two, maybe three, of the tries they scored were very good, but they were from our mistakes, and that’s the thing that is most frustrating. 

Back-to-back losses against Wales and now France have burst the bubble of optimism which emerged from Scotland’s Six Nations opening weekend win over England, but Hogg insisted that the team’s hunger for the fight has not diminished. 

“We’ve spoken a lot in the changing room about what is needed going into the last two weeks of the Six Nations, and it is a horrible feeling right now but the worst thing for me is having to wait another two weeks until we play again,” he explained. “I know I speak on behalf of the whole squad when I say we would love to play Italy tomorrow. 

“We just need to concentrate on ourselves. At times we showed what we are about and we just need that for 80 minutes.  

“I know we kind of say the same things but that’s the difference between winning and losing Test match rugby

“It is a horrible feeling, I’m not going to lie, because we want to be in a position to give a true reflection of what we’re all about and at times we showed that but not enough. 

“We talked about staying in every single moment of the game, and at times we did that to get in the right areas and look dangerous, but at other times we let it slip a little bit too easily. 

“We need to be in a position to win most moments in the game: play in the right areas, make sure we have a clinical edge, stand firm defensively, not allow teams too much momentum – there’s not much more I can say about that.” 

Hogg stressed that he holds himself as accountable as any of his team-mates for their collective failure to deliver the performance they believed they were capable of, and he acknowledged that his failure to gather Chris Harris’ pass just before half-time was a sliding-doors moment in the match, with France going straight to the other end of the park to claim their third try. Instead of going in at the break five points ahead, the hosts found themselves nine points behind. 

“I think it was [a swing moment],” he agreed. “I’m bitterly disappointed with how that ended. I’d have loved to have caught that and scored because I felt at the time that momentum was right behind us. But we’ve then gone penalty [conceded], penalty [conceded] and they scored from easy field position we’ve gifted them. 

“We talk a lot about compounding errors and that’s what we did there.” 

Hogg did have words of praise for flanker Rory Darge, who marked his first start with an all-action display topped off by the first of his team’s two tries. 

“I thought Rory was absolutely outstanding,” he said. “I don’t know how many turnovers he got but he was busy, and he had dominant collisions, got over ball to slow them down, carried a lot – and we just need everybody to follow suit. 

“He got in good positions both sides of the ball and made a big impact so, yeah, he was quality.”