SCOTLAND forwards coach Dan McFarland has admitted that he was deeply disappointed with how his team’s line-out functioned – or, more accurately, didn’t function at key moments – against Ireland on Saturday, and agreed that there has been a drop-off in this area generally since November.
But the Englishman vowed that he and the team will take on board the lessons which need to be learned to ensure that this key area of the game is more profitable in future.
“Really, really disappointing,” replied McFarland, when asked about Scotland’s touch-line woes. “From my role in terms of working on the line-out … the line-out strategy … we haven’t been as good in this Six Nations as we were in November. That’s a learning for me. Perhaps a little bit of a different approach [is required].”
“We obviously play a style of rugby that likes to get the ball in fast, and the more you speed line-outs up the less time you take over it, and that is always going to cause a reduction in accuracy. However, it is my job to make sure we are up to the level we need to be.”
McFarland did add that Scotland are not unique in facing challenges in being as accurate as they need to be in this vital part of the game.
“Everybody loses line-outs. Ireland’s lineout defence is really good, Devin Toner puts a lot of pressure on you and he did a really good job this week in reading what we were going to be doing,” he said.
“They lost two line-outs, but one of the ones we lost was really costly in terms of the momentum and that’s just how it is. The other three we lost weren’t that important in the end, but from my point of view we’ve got to do a better job.”
Scotland’s line-out issues contributed to a situation whereby they only had 38 per cent possession and 37 per cent territory against Ireland, but McFarland insisted that this was more than enough to secure a win.
New Zealand and territory
“I would say it’s certainly not impossible [to win with those kinds of stats]. Possession isn’t everything at all. Ireland play a possession game (but) New Zealand don’t play a possession game and they’re the best team in the world – they take their opportunities,” he said.
“You’ll find plenty of examples of New Zealand winning with less possession than the opposition, it is just the fact that every time they get it they score within one or two phases because they can cut you to pieces. At the weekend Ireland had a good chunk of the possession, but we had plenty to be able to do what we needed to do.
“We had the ball for over 18 minutes. The opposition against Ireland have been averaging between 13 and 14 minutes up until that point, so we had nearly a third more possession against Ireland than teams average over the last three games. It wasn’t much less than we would normally get – a little bit less, but not much – but we didn’t make the most of it.”
Five players were added to the Scotland training squad yesterday. Glasgow Warriors quartet Scott Cummings (lock), Matt Fagerson (back-row), Adam Hastings (stand-off) and Richie Vernon (centre) earn their first call-ups of 2018, alongside Gloucester centre Matt Scott, who was involved earlier this year.