Scotland captain Stuart Hogg admits that he was stung by Gregor Townsend’s half-time team talk when he accused the players of not working hard enough during the first 40-minutes of their Autumn Nations Cup opener away to Italy – but, ultimately, he recognises that it had the desired effect on the squad.

“We knew the Italians were going to come and be physical – try to shut us down in defence and carry hard in attack – so that came as no surprise, but we didn’t really turn up in the first half which was a bit disappointing,” said Hogg.

“Gregor touched on the fact that we weren’t really working hard enough and as players that hurts us. I was pretty annoyed that Gregor had to say that but it gave us the kick up the backside we needed. “I said to the boys at half time that nobody questions our work-rate and physicality again, and we seemed to turn it around in the second half to get the result.

“Full credit to Italy, they were very, very good in the first half. In the second half I felt we were.”

Hogg stressed that Scotland’s lacklustre first half was not due to a lack of passion or a consequence of underestimating the opposition, rather a failure to adapt to a number of external factors such as Italy’s intensity, the smaller-than-usual pitch and a few refereeing calls that did not go the away team’s way.

“The big thing for us is that in rugby you have spells when momentum doesn’t go your way and it is about how we combat that,” he said. “It took us a bit too long to get into the game – and you get that sometimes when you can’t get hold of the ball and dictate play. It is about how you overcome that.

“In the last 10 minutes of the first half and all of the second half we were in control, so I’m proud of the boys with how we worked through that.”

Townsend is not the type of coach to throw teacups and unleash the hair dryer at half time, but Hogg made it clear that his fellow Borderer had got the message across in no uncertain terms.

“We didn’t feel like we were in a good place, we weren’t performing in the way that we know we can, and I said to the boys as we were walking in at half time that we were going to get it handed to us because we pretty much deserved it,” said Hogg.

“It was delivered in a manner that was going to get the best out of us. It hurts me when people say we’re not working hard enough. I said that to Gregor after the game and he actually agreed with me. He liked it.

“We asked boys to stand up and be counted – and to empty the tank. We knew we had the players on the bench who could come on and make a difference.”

Now all eyes turn to next weekend’s clash against France, who are arguably the form team in world rugby at the moment, but Hogg says the Scotland team will draw confidence from having beaten Les Bleus the last time the two sides met in March “They are high on confidence, but they were playing some unbelievable rugby going into our game against them in the Six Nations and we managed to knock them over so that will be our aim,” he said. “I fully believe we’re more than capable of doing it.

“The big thing for us is believing in our individual ability and in how good we can be as a team. I don’t think we are quite there but we’re going to keep working hard next week getting ready for France.

“There’s a huge amount of belief in this squad and we’ll continue to strive to be better on a daily basis.”