Scotland will need to “play better” than they showed this autumn to make an impact in next year’s Six Nations, believes head coach Gregor Townsend.
The Scots ended their campaign with a scrappy 14-9 victory over Argentina to finish with two wins from four games.
They were beaten 21-10 in Wales and lost 26-20 at home to South Africa, as well as thrashing Fiji 54-17.
“Obviously we will get a lot of learning from these four games,” Townsend told BBC Sport.
“We have played some tough opponents and we have got some tough opponents coming up, starting with Italy in the Six Nations [on 2 February].
“It is two months away but we have got to make sure we play better than we did over this period and keep improving as a team.”
Scotland open the 2019 Six Nations with home games against Italy and defending champions Ireland, with away games against France and England sandwiching a third home match against Wales.
Despite their struggles against a stubborn Argentina side, Townsend took heart from the way his side kept the Pumas try-less despite the visitors enjoying 60% of the possession.
“A couple of times in the second half our defensive line was breached but we got back in numbers to stop Argentina scoring tries,” he noted.
“I am impressed the team found a way to win. We were tested today. Argentina kept the ball for a lot of phases and they played well. The conditions meant it wasn’t going to be a game won off passing the ball wide.
“We didn’t have our best first half admittedly, but I felt second half we brought more energy to the game and did enough to win.”
Townsend felt Stuart Hogg’s vision to spot an overlap on the right flank, and call the move which led to Sean Maitland’s fifth try in seven Tests, “was the moment that won us the game”.
“To notice that, and communicate it, but also for Greig Laidlaw to change his mind, instead of passing left but going right, that was good skill and execution.
“There was some great defence to stop Argentina scoring but that allowed us to get more than a score ahead.”
‘He applies force, it ticks all the boxes’
Captain Laidlaw felt Scotland “controlled the game” despite Argentina missing four kicks at goal that would have tested the hosts’ resolve even further.
“The conditions dictated how it was going to be played today,” he said. “It was never going to be high-scoring. International rugby is about winning and we have beaten a strong Argentina team, so we are delighted with the win.
“You’ve just got to be patient on days like this. Don’t try and attack too early. Play in the right areas. It was probably our defence that won us the game.”
Pumas coach Mario Ledesma said it “hurt” to lose a game he felt his side “physically dominated”, and believes Scotland hooker Fraser Brown was lucky not to be punished for a high tackle on winger Ramiro Moyano in the first half.
“There was a tweet about all the red cards and yellow cards that should have been awarded to players [across the autumn] and this is one of them,” he said.
“Clearly he is late, he applies force, it ticks all the boxes, but that’s the way it is. The ref didn’t see it that way, the TMO didn’t see it that way, it’s just the way it is.”
How did the Hastings-Russell midfield axis fare?
Former Scotland captain Andy Nicol on BBC One:
“There was a bit of experimentation about it. I think it was probably a pass-mark, but nothing more than that. Finn Russell is still Scotland’s number 10, without a doubt. I think that was proven today.
“When he went back to 10 with 15-20 minutes to go, he brought an element of control. I think it was right to see Adam Hastings today. He has emerged as a potential stand-off, but he is not at that level yet and he struggled at times today.
“Finn Russell is still number one, without doubt. [Saracens centre] Duncan Taylor will hopefully be coming back sometime next year, and Alex Dunbar made a real impact coming off the bench, so there are lots of options there. I don’t think what we saw today was Scotland’s number one option.”
Source BBC News