LONDON (Reuters) - Scotland’s defeat by England to open their Six Nations campaign last weekend was a blip and a backward step that former fullback Hugo Southwell believes Vern Cotter’s side can put right against Wales on Saturday.
Despite the optimism generated by an encouraging World Cup performance last year when they were seconds away from a semi-final place, it was a familiar sinking feeling for the Scots -- a defeat to start the Six Nations championship.
Wooden spoonists in 2015, they chalked up just one win the previous season and head to Cardiff on the back of eight successive Six Nations defeats, still haunted by memories of a record 51-3 pummelling by the Welsh two years ago.
“It shows what we are up against to try and reverse that trend,” Southwell told Reuters.
Southwell, who won 59 caps before being forced to retire through injury in 2014, was part of the last Scotland team to beat the Welsh nine years ago.
He said the 15-9 loss to England at Murrayfield was hopefully just a temporary setback for a side he feels has made “real improvement” under New Zealander Cotter.
“England were clinical and did what they needed to do,” said the former Wasps captain, who was also in the last Scotland side to beat England in the Calcutta Cup.
”It was frustrating to see a lesser level against England.
“Scotland did not play to their potential. They just couldn’t cope with England’s aggressive tackling, got no momentum and found it impossible to get over the gain line and break England down.”
That Scotland were unable to rise to the occasion when “England were there for the taking”, came as a surprise to Southwell who, like many of his compatriots, had viewed their World Cup efforts as a sign Scotland were no longer a work in progress.
Scotland were moments from a surprise quarter-final victory over Australia at Twickenham before a controversial penalty rescued the Wallabies.
Such were the raised expectations that Southwell had made Scotland slight favourites to beat an England side playing their first game under Eddie Jones, only to be undone by familiar failings.
“Ultimately if that had been back in the day when things weren’t going so well for Scotland then it would have just been another poor performance,” he said.
“It was a backward step in the sense that I thought during the World Cup, by scoring the tries they did and supporting the ball carriers like they did, that they showed what they could do.”
The Scots have not won in Cardiff since 2002 but Southwell expects to see the “real Scotland” this weekend.
“Wales will be smarting from their draw with Ireland so it will be very interesting,” he said.
“I firmly believe there will be a positive performance this week and more in line with what happened during the World Cup.”
Editing by Ed Osmond