Gregor Townsend believes Scotland are heading into the Six Nations in good fettle after winning three of their four Autumn Tests.
The head coach was satisfied at the end of a series in which the Scots defeated Tonga, Australia and Japan while also giving debuts to 12 players.
Reflecting after the 29-20 victory over the Brave Blossoms, Townsend said: “From this campaign, we’ve certainly introduced more players into our squad: 12 new caps, which must be unheard of.
“We’ve seen players thrive when they’ve had the opportunity to play. We’ve developed further. We’ve tried to take our defensive game on to get a bit extra out of our defence, and that’s something we’re still working on. We’ve been resilient at times to find ways to win, particularly against Japan and Australia.”
Townsend acknowledges there is still scope for improvement but, after overseeing six wins from nine games across the entirety of 2021, the head coach is excited about getting his team back together to prepare for the Six Nations opener against England at the start of February.
He said: “We’ve got lots to improve, particularly when we play teams of a similar philosophy and strength to South Africa, which we’ll get in our next game here against England in the Six Nations.
“Every time you play, it’s not going to be perfect but we feel the players are working so well together. We’ve loved the four weeks in their company, seeing them at training and off the field. We can’t wait to get them back together in a couple of months’ time.”
Despite enjoying some big wins over the past year, captain Stuart Hogg – who became Scotland’s record try-scorer against Japan on Saturday – believes the best is yet to come from a Scotland team widely deemed to be emerging as one of the top national teams in the world.
He said: “I think the key thing is we all learn individually and collectively from these games and make sure we’re in a better position when we come back for the Six Nations.
“Hopefully we keep everybody fit and we can keep challenging each other. For me, I’d love to see a complete 80-minute performance from us. I know it’s a massive ask but I wouldn’t ask for it if I didn’t believe we could do it.
“That’s just about making sure we’re in control on both sides of the ball. It will come, it will come. We’re in a good place and we’ll just keep plugging away.”