HAVING overlooked the majority of Scotland players for last summer’s British & Irish Lions tour because they had not proved they could perform away from home, Warren Gatland responded like a man vindicated in Cardiff last night as he suggested the prospect of their visit on the opening day of the Six Nations had been something he had happily welcomed.

After his side registered a four-try bonus point and conceded just a solitary consolation score in yesterday’s Six Nations opener in Cardiff, the Wales head coach who was, due to his Lions commitments, on sabbatical from that post when Scotland claimed their first win over his side since he took charge a decade ago, said his men had been so motivated by that defeat that he had confidently predicted an easy win.

“I said a few weeks ago that the draw was a great one for us going into the Six Nations,” he said. “We’ve got England and Ireland away and often in the Six Nations we’ve had pretty tough opening encounters on the first weekend, so Scotland at home was great for us to get an opportunity to get off to a winning start. Obviously, a lot of players who were involved last year wanted to make up for that disappointment that having been the first time Wales have lost to Scotland for a long time.

“It was an afternoon I was expecting. With the way we have trained in the last couple of weeks there was definitely a quiet confidence in the squad. The guys have been outstanding in their preparation and we did go into the game expecting to win, and to win reasonably comfortably.

“I said that to the chief executive yesterday. He said ‘how do you think you’ll go?’ and I said ‘I think we’ll win by 20’ and he looked a bit shocked by that but that was how well we’d trained."

Full of confidence after some free-flowing play in the autumn on the back of winning all three of their home matches during Vern Cotter’s last campaign as head coach, the Scots had headed to Cardiff proclaiming their confidence in their capacity to respond to those who had suggested they were only capable of performing under pressure at home.

However, they threw their chance away by conceding two early tries to be 14 points down after as many minutes, as hooker Stuart McInally acknowledged after the match.

“The tries they got were two errors from us,” he said. “They counter-attacked well but because of our errors they didn’t have to work too hard for those tries.”

However, as a veteran who has played for Scotland for more than a decade in which they have claimed just one away win in the championship outside of Rome, captain John Barclay accepted it was reasonable to question the team’s psyche.

“It’s hard to speak after a defeat like that. It’s pretty raw. A lot of it is the mental side of the game,” he said. “We have to look at it and decide where we went wrong and turn it around and a lot of these things have to be fixed off the pitch, before we get on it. Look at it, do the analysis, did we do everything we should have done? We are a straight bunch of guys, everyone is honest, no one is going to hide behind anything.”

Head coach Gregor Townsend defended the team’s on-field decision-makers, however, saying he felt the right messages were being delivered.

“You get moments to come together in huddles and the key decision-makers have to come together, our captain John and the half-backs and I believe the conversations were happening pretty well, but there was an element of chasing the game, especially in that second half where I felt we didn’t have to do that so early,” he said.

Scotland’s only winning Six Nations seasons, in 2006 and last year, having happened after they have won their opening match, he knows that history is already against them if they are to make any sort of impact in this championship and that it is now imperative that they capitalise on the familiarity of returning to their home turf where only the All Blacks beat them in the course of six outings in 2017.

“We need to have a response this week,” Townsend said of the preparation for the visit of France next Sunday. “We know one team wins, one team loses in a game of rugby but, look, that was miles below what we know we’re capable of and what we need to do in this jersey and what we need to do in this championship.”

He is, of course, bound to re-state his confidence in his players capacity to do be better, adding: “It will be words here, but I am confident we will be. I believe in the players, believe in what they have produced in training and games before today and in their determination to put it right at home. We have to make sure that the next time we go on the road, which will be to Dublin, we have to be much, much better than we were today. Playing in front of our own supporters will give the players energy and a boost, but we’ll need more than that considering how poorly we played today."