(Corrects 2001 score in second para)
By Mitch Phillips
LONDON, March 11 (Reuters) - Scotland’s players are bracing themselves for a “brutal” review of Saturday’s 61-21 Six Nations thrashing by England but captain John Barclay succinctly pre-empted the analysis by declaring: “We were useless.”
Few would disagree as the Scots fell to their equal-worst beating by England having conceded by far the most points against their oldest rivals - massively eclipsing the 43-3 reverse of 2001.
What will make this defeat sting even more was that Scotland arrived on something of a high with two wins under their belt and talking up their chances of a first triumph at Twickenham for 34 years.
From the earliest exchanges they looked second-best and, though they were badly disrupted by injuries to key players and a second-minute yellow card for hooker Fraser Brown, there was precious little consolation despite their three tries.
“We are trying to move away from the tag of lucky losers but that wasn’t even that - we were useless,” said Barclay. “We’ll look at the video, which will be a brutal review, but it was not through lack of trying, just too many errors.”
Coach Vern Cotter, other than having his plans so badly disrupted by early injuries to Stuart Hogg and Mark Bennet, also struggled to explain a performance that was in such stark contrast to the victories over Ireland and Wales.
“I‘m just frustrated that we didn’t get to show what we think we’re capable of,” he said.
“We didn’t defend well off the set piece, they scored from those, and then you find yourself chasing the game. You start making changes because of injuries and your strategic options are limited.”
Despite a thrashing that saw them slip to fifth in the table, Scotland host Italy in their final game and still have a decent chance of coming second, which would be their best finish since the competition was expanded to include Italy in 2000.
“It will be a test of character – it’s a good group of guys, we dust ourselves off for Italy and still have the possibility of finishing second,” said Barclay. “But we need to learn some lessons.”
Cotter’s thoughts were less about the mental recovery than the physical. “My biggest concern was probably looking at players to see who we can put on the field next week,” he said when asked what the mood was like in the losers’ dressing room.
“In two away games we’ve had eight concussions.” (Reporting by Mitch Phillips; Editing by Ken Ferris)