ON departing Japan last year following Scotland’s dismal elimination from the World Cup, it was clear things had to change.

Indeed, Gregor Townsend himself admitted as much, with the head coach saying he would have a good look at things to ensure he could wring out improvements in every possible area.

Zander Fagerson is one of those players who was involved in Scotland’s World Cup disappointment, with the prop playing a part from the bench in two of Scotland’s three games in Japan.

Fagerson’s first priority was getting back to enjoying playing rugby which, considering the scale of the disappointment, was not the easiest task. But he has, he admits, managed it.

“I feel like we’ve parked Japan – we didn’t play how we wanted to play, we didn’t give a great account of ourselves and we were pretty gutted afterwards,” he said.

“I left Japan quite gutted, that Japan game was tough. Japan as a country was awesome but it was pretty tough leaving like that.

“I just wanted to get back to my club and back enjoying my rugby. There’s a lot of young boys (in this Scotland camp) and a few young boys really stepping up. “We’ve really forgotten about Japan – the Six Nations is a new tournament, it’s a new year so lets just get on with it.”

And while Fagerson reveals there has been no sweeping changes, for him personally, the appointment of former France prop, Pieter de Villiers, in the role of scrum coach at the end of last year has been huge.

Coupled with Fagerson’s work with player/coach Petrus du Plessis at his club side, Glasgow Warriors, the 24-year-old believes there are few better people to improve is game, with the specialist nature of their coaching working wonders for the Warriors man.

“Petrus and Pieter have been massive for me,” said Fagerson.

“Since Petrus came in I’ve just picked his brains about stuff. He’s been one of the best in the English Premiership year in and year out so having him at Glasgow just to tap his brains and drive our set piece has been awesome.

“But Pieter has been a breath of fresh air as well coming in. Similar to Petrus, lots of endurance stuff and core stuff and that is not just with the front row but the pack as a whole.

“It’s massive, having a specialist coach coming in. We have specialist kicking coaches, specialist skills coaches and so to have a scrum coach coming in, to have that key focus throughout training.

“He follows me around the gym to make sure my posture is good! So, it’s full on but it’s good.”

Scotland may be an improved side this Six Nations in comparison to the World Cup, but they are still winless in the tournament so far having lost to both Ireland and England.

Townsend’s men’s next outing is against Italy in Rome next Saturday and there is little doubt it is a must-win game for the Scots. The stats look good; Scotland have defeated the Italians in their last seven meetings, with the Italians last victory at Murrayfield in 2015.

But despite Scotland’s winning run, they have not always been dominant, with their last visit to Rome ending in a tight 29-27 victory.

And so, says Fagerson, there is no chance of complacency creeping in as he and his teammates are well aware of the threat the Italians will pose next weekend.

“Italy showed in the first two rounds that they have a really good scrum, they posed Wales a lot of problems as well as France,” he said.

“We are going into this game same as every game, with a plan. It’s been going well so far so we won’t change too much, we’ll stick to our process.”

Last year, WP Nel seemed to have a firm grasp on the number 3 shirt, starting all three of Scotland’s games in Japan.

But things seemed to have shifted somewhat this Six Nations, with Fagerson starting both games so far.

Townsend will not select his side for the Italy game until next week but with WP Nel being allowed to return to Edinburgh in this fallow week, things look good for the Warriors prop. However, he is taking nothing for granted, with Nel , as well as Simon Berghan pushing hard for the shirt Fagerson has currently commandeered.

“Not at all,” said Fagerson when asked if this is his jersey to lose.

“WP is a great player, as is Simon Berghan. You can’t rest on your laurels. You’ve got to come into camp every week fighting for that position.

What’s really good is that depending who plays, everyone is supporting each other and helping to make each other better. So it’s not my jersey at all, I’m still trying to fight every week to get my opportunity to play whether that’s on the bench or starting.”