Hamilton: Title is getting closer
Veteran Scotland forward Jim Hamilton insists the Dark Blues are inching closer to a RBS 6 Nations title - and believes he can win one before he retires.
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Scott Johnson's side have won just one of their four matches so far this season and have not lifted a Championship crown since the tournament's final year as a five-team contest in 1999.
They were labelled the worst ever Scotland side by former England boss Sir Clive Woodward following their 20-0 humiliation by the Auld Enemy last month.
But Hamilton sees progress in a side which came within 90 seconds of beating France on Saturday, only to see Jean Marc Doussain's late penalty steal a 19-17 victory for Les Bleus at Murrayfield.
The 31-year-old Montpellier lock knows time is running out to claim his first Six Nations winner's medal but he is not giving up hope yet.
He said: "We've had to go to some dark places, especially after that England game. We know we didn't play well. It was a shocking day at the office. We have had to believe in what we are doing to come out of those places and the coaches certainly believe in where we are going.
"We've isolated ourselves in the squad so that we can stick together and make sure we keep everything in-house, pulling in the same direction.
"You can see in certain aspects of the France game that we are definitely going in the right direction.
"Maybe a lot of supporters are getting sick of hearing that but as players we want that consistency and we want to win games.
"Me personally, I am getting on a bit now and my ambition before I finish playing is to win a Championship. I wouldn't keep coming back, leaving my two kids and wife at home away in France, if I didn't believe in this squad that we have.
"I genuinely believe that we are getting closer to that point where we can challenge. I know it's all if, buts and maybes and that people have heard it all before.
"But if we keep putting in performances like we did against France and keep believing in what we are doing, there are a lot of young players in this squad who can take us there."
If Scotland are to win a title, their levels of discipline will need to improve vastly.
Tim Swinson's foul on Alexandre Flanquart as the clock was ticking down at Murrayfield handed Doussain his chance to snatch victory. It was the 50th penalty his team have coughed up so far, more than any other team in the tournament.
Johnson claimed he was concerned by the disparity but Hamilton refused to single out referees like Chris Pollock - the man who took charge of the weekend battle with France - for flak.
"No-one ever agrees with the ref if you lose. If you win, you say he's done a alright job," he said.
"It's not about bagging the ref. They are their own people. They are not going to have the same views on all of the permutations of the game. Some will see a scrum go down and let us carry on, others will ping it.
"We have got to adapt to that. It's the same for both sides and I'm not going to say the ref is the reason for us not winning.
"We were comfortable against France at times and we have only got ourselves to blame."
The Scots now face Wales on Saturday and Hamilton says his side can shake of Saturday's disappointment to win in Cardiff.
He said: "Going down to Wales will be tough. They are the reigning champions, a fantastic team. The Millennium Stadium is an unbelievable place to play in.
"But we are going down there with the mindset of winning the game. That's all we can do. We are disappointed with result on Saturday but will go to Wales and give it our best shot."