Six Nations 2017: Scotland's Lions hopefuls get reality check after England rout
The reaction to the London mauling was almost as brutal as the mauling itself.
Scotland, it was written in places, descended into a "sorry heap" at Twickenham, they were by turns "brainless" and an "embarrassment". What happened down there was "a rout", "a surrender", "a humiliation, "a pathetic showing".
This wasn't just kicking a team when they were down, this was a savaging done with a smile and the visitors left themselves wide open to it.
So many strong, and justified, words were used about the way Scotland played and the manner in which they were coursed around Twickenham for 80 minutes, but the most memorable was one used by not just a Scottish player, but the Scottish captain. "Useless," said John Barclay. Nobody was of a mind to disagree with him.
It's not coaches that are needed in the Scotland camp this week, it's psychologists. And medics, of course. Lots of them. Seven England tries and now seven more injuries to add to the misery. Physically, emotionally, spiritually - and every other type of ally you care to mention - that was one bruising day at Twickenham.
Mark Bennett has already been ruled out of the Italy game on Saturday, thereby joining Greig Laidlaw, Duncan Taylor, Alasdair Dickinson, WP Nel, Josh Strauss and John Hardie in the cast of the stricken.
Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour and Ryan Wilson are trying to recover in time after getting concussed. Finn Russell and Huw Jones have to get scans on knee knocks. Richie Gray is getting one on his hamstring.
James Robson, the team doctor, may as well borrow a flashing ambulance light and stick it on his head for the next week. He's going to be a busy, busy man.
Scotland were caught in the perfect storm on Saturday. They chose this day of all days to deliver a giant calamity of a display, a day when England produced one of their best Tests in years.
England were quietly brooding after some bad press, a little angry at the flak sent their way after Italy, maybe a little embarrassed at their slowness in dealing with Italy's tactics, perhaps a tad indignant at all the chat about the revived Scots and how they were heading south to consign 1983 to the dustbin once and for all.
The hosts had motivation coming out of their ears. Scotland had weakness coming out of the woodwork. What they need to do now is clear. They need to harness the hurt and use it against Italy in their final match of the Six Nations and the farewell Test in Vern Cotter's reign.
They need to do to the Italians what England did to them. Power, pace, deception, invention, tries and more tries. A bonus-point win sends them back up the table from their current slot in fifth. A good season is still there to be secured if the Italians are blasted.
The horror of Twickenham can be lessened if Scotland finish third in the table with three wins and a six-point loss in Paris when injury befell them in freakish circumstances. That's definite progress. Twickenham will hang in the air like the dirtiest cloud. That can't be erased, but neither should the victories over Ireland and Wales.
Scotland are moving forward, but there was the most brutal reality check on Saturday. When England get it right they're on a different planet. But here's the news. When England get it right they're a match for New Zealand at their ultimate. On Saturday's form, England would happily go toe-to-toe with the All Blacks, home or away, summer, autumn, winter or spring.
On Saturday, Scotland have a chance to finish with a flourish, but you have to fear now that terminal damage has been done to their hopes of having a chunky representation on the Lions tour.
It was instructive to hear Warren Gatland's words when he visited Scotland last week. The Lions coach spoke of the importance of the game at Twickenham, suggesting that winning matches at home was proof of Scotland's improvement, but that winning games away from home was what he was looking for from the Scotland contenders.
|Scots in last six original Lions squads|
|1993: 7 (Kenny Milne, Peter Wright, Paul Burnell, Damian Cronin, Andy Reed, Scott Hastings, Gavin Hastings) + 1 temp rep (Andy Nicol)||2005: 3 (Gordon Bulloch, Simon Taylor, Chris Cusiter) + 1 rep (Jason White)|
|1997: 5 (Tom Smith, Doddie Weir, Rob Wainwright, Gregor Townsend, Alan Tait) + 1 rep (Tony Stanger)||2009: 2 (Euan Murray, Nathan Hines) + 2 pre-tour reps (Ross Ford, Mike Blair)|
|2001: 3 Tom Smith, Scott Murray, Simon Taylor) + 2 reps (Gordon Bulloch, Andy Nicol)||2013: 3 (Richie Gray, Sean Maitland, Stuart Hogg) + 1 rep (Ryan Grant)|
Had Scotland lived with England and taken them to the wire then Gatland would have had some interesting decisions to make. He'd have seen players going to an intimidating stadium and standing up to a champion team. They're the kind of customers he needs in New Zealand.
The fact that they were brutalised puts an image in the head of the Kiwi taking out a red pen and drawing a line through the names of those Scots who advanced their case so impressively against Ireland and Wales.
England will make up the bulk of Gatland's squad, which will number about 38 players. If they go on and win a second Grand Slam while setting a new world record for consecutive Test wins then as many as 20 of Eddie Jones' squad could travel - and they'd go on merit.
If they're denied in Dublin then the by-product of that would be more Irishmen on the tour. Either way, it's bad news for Scotland.
They had a lamentable day that probably destroyed the Lions chances of all bar three or four, but they've got to go again. The good work they've done this season demands a proper finale against Italy, a resounding response to the nightmare.