Richie Vernon Rugby World Cup Tour Diary Pt 3

Here’s Richie Vernon’s 3rd installment of his RWC diary:

The 2011 Rugby World Cup is well underway and it has been an entirely mixed experience for the Scotland squad here. We have finished the week two wins better off and in a great position looking forward to our next two against Argentina and England where it will be decided who the two teams are that are going to progress to the quarter finals. The Romania game was very poor in patches but the squad have bounced back well with a controlled performance against a powerful Georgian team to leave us with 9 points from our first 2 group games.

The build up the Romania game last week was excellent. After getting settled in Invercargill our team run was as sharp as it’s been this year and the mood was very positive with all excited at the prospect of our first game. On game-day, there was some rain earlier in the day but the weather had cleared up to leave a great day for rugby.

We started the game fantastically well, as we settled into our patterns early on. As a team, we looked dangerous but after scoring two early tries we let our foot off the gas somewhat and all credit to Romania, who came back at us well, controlling the ball and set piece. At 24-21 down, it was an eerie feeling behind the posts and I don’t think many of us could believe what was going on. To come back from that position was a real positive as we strung together two great attacks for tries but there was no escaping the ‘gotten out of jail’ feeling after the game and it felt to a few of us like a loss.

We had a very quick turnaround to the Georgia game and we used it to have a long, hard look at ourselves.

Sunday we went to the pool for recovery and had a chance to go over our own games but the day after we were back to the training ground preparing for Georgia. The changes in the team brought some real freshness and energy and the prep work went well with the team run the day after following on smoothly. As a team we were clear on what the game-plan was and the key factors that would win us the contest.

The night before the match, the boys got a welcome surprise as the Invercargill Mayor, Tim Shadbolt came to, would you believe it, give us a 30 minute comedy routine. The Mayor has been arrested numerous times for protesting and has had an eventful life to say the least. Earlier that day he’d given his Autobiography entitled ‘Bullshit and Jelly beans’ as birthday present to Max Evans which was well received and his performance even more so. The Mayor had typified the great experience we had had in Invercargill and it was a fitting reminder of what we’d miss when we’d leave the day after the game for Wellington.

The weather however, we would not miss and it was another typically wet day at the bottom of the South Island on the game day. The pack as a whole had been questioned and the guys were determined to front up in the area that was Georgia’s strength. The pack performed superbly for the 80 minutes which gave us the impetus to get a solid win. At times we forced the offload when in their half which would have made it more comfortable but all in all a much improved performance from Romania and a good win. I was disappointed not to have got on but with the tightness of the game it was understandable.

 The next day, spirits were high as there was real mission accomplished feel in camp. After saying thank you to hotel staff and the mayor we headed for Wellington where we knew the real crunch stage of the World Cup begins. We’ve had the travel day and today to relax before we look forward to the next challenge of a spirited Argentina team. Tomorrow we’re back to training and the hard work starts again, as boys will be determined to impress in training and be selected. Training I’m sure will be ferocious but we wouldn’t have it any other way. By the time we reach the game on Sunday, I’m sure it will have been a long time coming!

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Richie Vernon is a former Scotland International who received caps in the back row and the centre. He currently plays his club rugby for London Scottish, following spells at Glasgow and Sale Sharks.