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Cotter begins Six Nations planning

Scotland head coach Vern Cotter will give his players homework to make sure they are geared up for the huge year that lies ahead.

The Dark Blues rounded off 2014 with another encouraging display as they swept five tries past Tonga in a 37-12 win at Kilmarnock's Rugby Park.

It followed the impressive five-try win over Argentina and proud display in the eight-point loss to New Zealand and sets the side up for the next 12 months, which starts with the RBS 6 Nations and ends with the World Cup in England.

Cotter will not see his men again until late January ahead of their Six Nations opener in France on February 7.

But he has given each of them a detailed training programme he wants them to work through before then to ensure they get off to a perfect start in Paris.

Speaking after seeing his side win their fifth match from seven under his command, the Kiwi said: "This leaves us in a position to take the things we did well forward and improve them.

"It gives us an opportunity to spend some time developing some individual skill sets, which we will be asking players to do. That will give the team more possibilities to vary our play.

"The guys will go back to their clubs with aims and objectives.

"This key thing for me is that this is great, but where do we move to next?

"If we come back thinking we will reproduce the same stuff, then that is a track that is dangerous.

"We want to move everybody forward as individuals to improve our team game."

Saturday's clash was the first ever major Test to have been played on a plastic pitch but Scotland found the grass was just as green in Ayrshire as it has been at Murrayfield of late.

The Tongans made a fast start but could only muster four first-half penalties from fly-half Latiume Fosita.

The Scots on the other hand, saw their line-out cause all sorts of problems throughout the match and set up Blair Cowan for the opening try.

Stuart Hogg then darted 80 yards for a sensational intercept try before the break, while Alex Dunbar, Geoff Cross and Tommy Seymour all finished off decent moves that - along with 12 points from captain and kicker Greig Laidlaw - sealed victory.

Cotter said: "It was a hard game. Tonga put a lot of pressure on us at ruck time and the penalties seemed to be going against us.

"The players simplified things in the second half and held on to the ball a bit more.

"They also tried to work hard and they did that before finally managing to get on top and win.

"We took six line-out throws from them in the second half. We applied pressure and the scrum became more dominant as well.

"We got our rewards from our own set-piece plays as well and tidied things up in general play. We became more efficient, which all helps."

With 11 tries scored across the three November internationals and just six conceded, Scotland finally look as though they are able to complement their traditional defensive capabilities with some attacking flair.

"It is brilliant to know we can cause teams so many problems but now we are getting the end credits across the try line," said skipper Laidlaw.

"I think this is the most tries we have scored across the autumn Tests since 2007, so you can see we are making the most of our chances now.

"Vern is really hammering into us to improve our individual skill sets and the players are taking that on board.

"You can now see that coming through in the performances and the tries that are being scored.

"We got off to a great start and that gave us confidence. But we really wanted to finish the job. That is something Scottish teams have not done in the past. They have made good starts but not finished it off.

"Now we have done that but we are not getting carried away because there is a tough competition coming up."


From Belfast Telegraph