Cotter wants to see Scots build legacy
Scotland’s departing head coach Vern Cotter praised "the character" of his players in bouncing back from their 61-21 hammering against England to provide him with a winning 29-0 send off at home to Italy on the final day of the Six Nations Championship.
Typically, however, the 55-year-old New Zealander declined to accept any personal plaudits for leaving his successor, Gregor Townsend, with the legacy of a team who, in his three-year tenure, have risen from 10th to fifth in the world rankings and progressed from a Six Nations whitewash in his maiden season to three wins out of five.
Having already recorded home victories against Ireland and Wales, Cotter’s side notched a bonus point victory with tries from Finn Russell, Matt Scott, Tim Visser and Tommy Seymour.
It completed a hat-trick of wins for only the second time in the 18 seasons of the Six Nations era -– matching their tally from 2006.
After France's dramatic win against Wales and Ireland's victory over England, the Scots finished fourth in the table behind England, Ireland and France.
With 19 victories from 36 matches, Cotter has also become the first Scotland coach in the professional era to achieve a 50% or better win ratio but insisted: “I am not going to talk about legacies.
“It’s just been good to come here and work with good people -– to strive to move forward and get better. That is all we have done and now these guys, we’ll look forward to seeing these guys put the jersey on and get out there and play again.
“These guys are gaining experience together. We always said last week would help us and those though days have, in a lot of ways. We’ll be looking at the World Cup in 2019 with a real desire to do well.
“The three wins is great. It’s a reflection of the work these guys put in, the honest review from last week and the time we spent on the field this week. I’m really happy with the character shown by this group of men. “
Cotter, who joins Montpellier in the Top 14 when Townsend moves from Glasgow, also had the satisfaction of seeing his side finish with Scotland’s highest try scoring tally in a Six Nations season -- 14.
He received a huge ovation from the sell-out 67,144 Murrayfield crowd when he was reluctantly ushered by injured captain Greig Laidlaw on a lap of honour at the final whistle.
“Greig pulled me along,” Cotter said. “It was really nice. I had the whole family here watching the game so I just signed off on the three years. It was nice to finish on a win so, yeah, that’s it now.”
It was a desperate performance by Italy, who failed to trouble the scoreboard for the first time in two years –- since a 29-0 defeat against France in Rome on March 15, 2015 -– consigning them to a whitewash of five defeats without even a single losing bonus point.
For inspiration at the end of his first Six Nations campaign as coach, Conor O’Shea pointed to Scotland suffering a whitewash in his first season, 2015.
“Things will turn,” the former Ireland full-back insisted.
“Vern Cotter was whitewashed in his first Six Nations so I hope we will follow his fingerprints. There are a lot of positives, and things to be changed in our system.
“Everyone else has invested. We have stood still. We have to play catch up but we can catch up –- with the right will –- and by putting egos into pockets and understanding that the national team comes first.
“That has to happen. And then we’ll have a chance.”