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Cuttitta defends under-fire Johnson


Jack Cuthbert has been called up to the Scotland squad

Jack Cuthbert has been called up to the Scotland squad

Jack Cuthbert has been called up to the Scotland squad

Scotland scrum coach Massimo Cuttitta has defended under-fire boss Scott Johnson, insisting the Australian is doing a "great job".

Johnson's leadership has been attacked by a number of former Scotland players - including former British Lion Peter Wright who branded him a "joker" - following the dismal 20-0 defeat to England last week which left the Dark Blues staring at a potential RBS 6 Nations wooden spoon.

The Scots lacked any sort of attacking menace in that Murrayfield collapse, spending just three per cent of the match in the England 22.

The Auld Enemy's victory followed another toothless display against Ireland in Dublin but Cuttitta insists Johnson is the man to lead Scotland through to the summer, when he will move upstairs to become director of rugby, leaving New Zealander Vern Cotter to coach the national side.

Speaking ahead of Saturday's clash with Italy - who have also lost their first two games - h e told BBC Scotland: "Scott's doing a great job. From my point of view, he's doing a hell of a good job.

"He's keeping the team really focused on our objectives. There were good things in the game, some positives."

Wright claimed Scotland had the players to compete against the other European powers but questioned whether "the coaching staff are good enough".

However, Cuttitta insisted the criticism was not a distraction, saying: " We just take it on the chin and work as hard as always to resolve the issues.

"It's been difficult, but let's not forget that England are one of the best rugby teams in the world.

"There were good things in the game. There were some positives. They were in our 22 at least 20 times and they only scored twice, so that's something we did well.

"Scrummaging was reasonably good. We got 80 per cent of quality ball from scrums, so there weren't just negatives."

Scottish Rugby Union chief executive Mark Dodson raised eyebrows at the weekend when he suggested Scotland could still win next year's World Cup.

And Cuttitta refused to rule out such a massive turn-around in fortunes taking place.

He said: "The World Cup is a long way from now so we might not think that at the moment, but there's still a long time to work, there's good talent in the Scotland squad and I personally believe that this group can do something important.

"Now, whether it's winning the World Cup or achieving good performances or good wins from now onwards, I believe we've got a good group that we're welding and we can do well. Anything is realistic if you really believe in it."

Meanwhile, Edinburgh back Jack Cuthbert has been called up to the Scots squad ahead of the trip to the Eternal City

The 26-year-old, who can operate either at full-back or on the wing, will add extra competition to the Dark Blue's back division after Sean Maitland was ruled out for the rest of the championships after suffering knee and ankle injuries in the defeat to Ireland a fortnight ago.

Cuthbert won his solitary cap against the Irish during a World Cup warm-up Test back in 2011.

The former Bath man has made 14 starts for Edinburgh in his first season with the capital club and has been promoted to the full Scots squad from the A team which drew 16-16 with England Saxons last month.

He could be joined by club-mate Grayson Hart after the scrum-half was asked to train with Scott Johnson's team on Monday.

Back-up number nine Chris Cusiter sat out the session after reporting back from weekend duty with Glasgow Warriors with a slight calf strain and Hart may be required to fill in against the Azzurri if Cusiter's problem worsens.

Scotland team doctor James Robson said: "Having completed the game for Glasgow Warriors at Cardiff at the weekend, Chris Cusiter subsequently reported to national camp today with a tight calf.

"Given the proximity of Saturday's international in Rome, Chris will undergo a precautionary scan at the SPIRE Murrayfield Hospital this afternoon in order that we can have a more definitive assessment."