Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland v Samoa: Scotland can save their World Cup

[Edinburgh, UK. November 11, 2017] Scotland players face the Siva Tau before Scotland vs Samoa at BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. (c) ALASTAIR ROSS | Novantae Photography Photo Credit: Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

By Ruaraidh Britton

There’s no way of denying it, and it doesn’t help dodging it, Scotland were awful on Sunday. Their opener against Ireland was an eye-opener and a soul destroyer all in one go. We made Ireland look world class in a game where they barely reached second gear.

Numerous mistakes and missed opportunities sent them on their way to the best possible result in Pool A with Japan on their horizon this weekend.

For Scotland, Samoa descend on Kobe knowing they’re technically in just as good a position as Ireland following their bonus-point victory over minnows Russia. Scotland need to wise up against what was an ill-disciplined Samoan side, and quickly, if they’re going to stand a chance of reaching the knockout stages.

First things first, we need to learn how not to concede inside 20 minutes. We’ve all read the stats this week that show us how many games we’ve conceded early against tier one opposition.

I won’t bring up the heart-wrenching reminders, but defence is key no matter who the opposition is. If Scotland fail to switch on against a Samoan side with confidence and style following their opening win – and recent close results against the Scots – this World Cup could soon become a nightmare. At Murrayfield in 2017, they bagged 38 points, and we all know the score down in Durban. They aren’t the beast they used to be, but that doesn’t make them any less capable if we fail to go at them with all cylinders firing in the opening exchanges.

No one is here for a group stage exit like 2011, especially not after some of the highs Scots have experienced since Toony’s appointment in 2017. We need to make the most of our start like we did against Italy and Georgia. Nail that, and the game is ours. Simple as that.

Selection is so hotly debated in this side that it’s almost too unavoidable when looking at certain players in our squad. How Ryan Wilson and Tommy Seymour started against Ireland is beyond me when Blade Thompson and Darcy Graham offer the physicality we needed against Schmidt’s Ireland side. Samoa and Russia can be physical and we’ve seen that in their early games, so Jamie Ritchie, Magnus Bradbury, and Darcy Graham will open Monday’s encounter.

Get the selection right and you’re halfway to victory. Will this make the difference?

Injuries can happen to anyone and everyone, and it’s annoying they’ve taken hold of the Scots first. Hamish Watson and Ali Price have gone home, and there’s nothing we can do about that.

If Ritchie performs as well as he did when he stepped up for Watson in the Six Nations, and George Horne shows his worth replacing Laidlaw off the bench, then this could be far more comfortable than expected. We know what both men can do and they proved themselves well over the last twelve months. They’ll know more than anyone having watched the Ireland game as we did that this is a must-win encounter, so they’ll bring everything they’ve got.

The fastest brand of rugby sounds exciting and thrilling and every little bit hopeful. Last Sunday showed us exactly why it doesn’t always work.

We barely strung more than five phases together, and any line out moves in Ireland’s 22 more often than not ended up in our half. Play the ugly stuff. Hit Samoa with multiple phases and they’ll tire quickly, just like Big Stern Vern used to have us running. If we can hold the ball for more than three minutes and keep control of the game whilst keeping the fast pace to our backline then we’ll become Samoa’s worst nightmare on Monday night.

England survived against the USA in tricky conditions in Kobe. The venue was described as sweaty, sticky, and one of the worst places to play rugby in, following the English victory on Thursday. If Scotland can put their practice with shampoo to good use and get a head and shoulders above their opposition, then this game could favour the Scots, as Samoa’s offload game will suffer more in the greasy conditions.

It’s basic knowledge they will have, but given how we played against Ireland, it’s anyone’s guess as to what tactics they will use anymore.

Nobody wants to see Scotland crash out like they did in 2011. To go home after barely three weeks would be crushing and make the rest of the tournament barely enjoyable. If Scotland can survive their first test against Samoa, then there’s every chance of us making the fourth week, especially if we attain the bonus point we now so crucially need. They are basic improvements, but we know they need them given how dire Sunday was for us all.

Apply the basics and edge past Samoa and that’s a step in the right direction; it’s all we ask for.

Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Sean Maitland, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw; Allan Dell, Stuart McInally, Willem Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Ritchie, Blade Thomson.
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Gordon Reid, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Ryan Wilson, George Horne, Adam Hastings, Duncan Taylor.

Part II of Kevin’s Preview will follow shortly.

56 Responses

  1. Good article. As you say, it’s just about getting a win. We don’t want to be needing to beat Japan to qualify for France 2023. Surprised Cummings isn’t starting and I hope Hornito gets a good run

  2. Over her here and been speechless since the abomination of the no show. All Japan did was front and give zero penalties away. Townsend? That’s it. Ireland had zero attack as per normal and had no respite via penalties. That is their only game. Easy to say but how much preparation was given to Japan’s preparation for this. An incredible strategy. Don’t make mistakes. 3 pens first half. I’m not into Cotter v Toonie, but the former would have, keep it tight. Gregor wants to have the fastest rubgy in the world? A 4 year coach of Glasgow, now National, unlike most, he is also the attack coach.? Keep it tight, he now looks naive and clearly given the vibe of insiders here, he needs help. It has taken me years, but someone who cultivates Ferguson, Guardiola etc, an intelligent coach, can also be self absorbed. Hey ho. I’d rather Cockerill interim with Toonie as attack coach in the interim with Rennie in a year. But only these daft blazers that govern us could dump Cotter and give us an untried coach.

    1. Who actually appointed Townsend , who are the blazers and what is their background.Oh I agree with the article BTW, we just need to win and get bonus points, The rest is out of our hands.

    2. Yep. Townsend entire time as coach had been building to Ireland game and look what happened. Meanwhile Japan had clearly been building to that game correctly, and they don’t get the chance to test themselves against them every year! Superb by Japan.

  3. Bookies odds to reach quarter final:
    Ireland 1/100 on
    Japan 4/7 on
    Scotland 5/4 against

    Ireland’s 2 bonus points are important. We can’t overhaul then unless they lose to Samoa.

    Looks difficult to qualify now.

    1. Anything could happen.
      Win the remaining games with a BP.
      Japan or Ireland slip up against Samoa.
      Japan fails to get a BP against Samoa and don’t get a losing BP against us.
      Blah blah blah.
      We need to put ourselves in a position where it’s possible.
      The bad vibes don’t help.

      I wouldn’t even pay attention to that stuff.

      Just get stuck in and be in position where it’s possible!

  4. hear, hear Johnny b! Lets just get stuck in one game at a time. All this getting carried away stuff is nonsense – total nonsense. Big game from Magnus – cant wait to see him get stuck in. Get this one done right which I think the boys will and the confidence will grow and the lion will be rampant! COME ON SCOTLAND

  5. Joe Schmidt blaming the refereeing after the game. You can’t make it up… especially after last week’s game. So nice to see a referee not just walk the bigger nation up the field and presume they’ve scored tries without bothering to look at legitimately raised concerns.

    This result is a disaster for us. It really just shows the importance of having a pack that can compete with anyone. We really need to toughen up or we’ll continue to struggle in the near and long term. As we now need four tries in every game, I think we need to play an open game and see where it takes us.

  6. Yes, if we win all three games with at least one, preferably two BPs per game, and Japan struggle against Samoa, it is theoretically possible still to go through. Got to rediscover our mojo in a big way though!

    1. Its possible Japan may struggle against Samoa. They will probably have to rest a fair few of their top players so they are ready against us. That said it could work in Samoa’s favor also.
      In short we need to handsomely win our remaining matches.. and that either will or won’t be enough. Not getting at least a losing BP against Ireland could be a real sore one.
      So much for thinking ahead to the QF!

      1. If we get the BP vs Samoa I doubt Japan will rest anyone.

        They’ve been given the perfect schedule.

        8 day turnaround vs Ireland
        7 day turnaround vs Samoa
        8 day turnaround vs Scotland

        Ireland came into their game with them on a 6 day turnaround and we will come in on a 4 day turnaround.

  7. Two things….

    -Scotland concerns aside, nice to see the host nation winning a big game in the RWC… It’s been a while!
    -Why does the punditry on the STV come out with stuff like “I’d love to see Japan in the quarter finals”? I’d love to see France and Argentina in the quarter finals but if I beamed that into all the TV boxes from Berwick to Penzance I would be strung out.

      1. I do not agree with this, a bit unfair.The media in general were excited when Scotland got over white line fever and talked us up, particularly in 2016 and 2017 . They were genuinely excited and pleased Scotland were competing., we got a lot of telly time. When Toonie took the helm all the talk was what a threat Scotland would be. When we took the field against Wales in Cardiff Feb 2018, we did not just let ourselves down. We lost their confidence as well.

        We will need to win it back and we can start tomorrow !

  8. The other 2 teams are in the exact same position we are!
    If they slip up and we don’t they go out!
    They’ve both got to play samoa.
    Japan have got to play us.

    Do you think they might be nervous about that? I think they might be!

    The mindset is so negative!
    Whinge whinge whinge Townsend should be fired let’s pick Cockers… bllox!

    You can’t control bookies’ odds.
    You can’t control what other teams do.

    You can only control what you do.

  9. Off topic but good to see CHH at Saracens and Alex Craig at Gloucester starting for their respective sides in the Premiership Cup. Both are great prospects at lock.

  10. TL;DR

    A BP win against Samoa is almost essential for our QF hopes.
    If we get our act together with 3 BP victories we will finish on 15 points which leaves 2 just possible outcomes where we don’t make it to the QF’s.

    1. Both Ireland and Japan finishing on 15 points and the QF spots being decided on PD (with us having the worst PD of the 3). This is pretty unlikely on the basis that Ireland will probably finish on 16 points with BP wins over Samoa and Russia.

    2. If Japan come into the Scotland game on 14 points (after a BP win against Samoa) and get 2 LBPs they will finish on 16 points and top the pool.

    If we don’t pick up a BP vs Samoa (but Japan does) our QF chances take a massive hit. In that situation we would have to beat Japan with a BP while also denying them any LBP….a very big ask

    1. If we are equal on points with Japan we need to beat them and not allow them a losing bonus point as head to head count before PD.

      1. Not sure exactly what you mean…

        If we are on equal points to Japan before the Japan game and we win it doesn’t matter how many LBP they get. If we are on equal points after our game vs Japan then BP also don’t matter.

        If 3 teams are on 15 points then it will be decided on PD not head to head because we would have all beaten each other.

    2. Yes how does that work, if we are all on 15 and have all beaten each other it comes down to points difference. Say Ireland have the best points difference they go through. What happens then? Does it remain on points difference or does the victor of us vs Japan go through? Would be a bit weird if Japan got through on points difference even if we won the head to head? Although they could say the same about Ireland I suppose!

  11. Why is Huw Jones not in the squad; 17 appearances and 10 tries, all other countries are looking at this and think we are daft.

    Scotland persisted with Jones for the last 2-3 years and even in disaterous defeats this man was the one who looked like doing something. Yet come world cup Jones is not selected and Taylor is in. Taylor is in based on promise only. I cant remember anything that Taylor has done that merits his selection and he is injury prone.

    A win against Samoa will be a start to rectifying what happened last Sunday, but that needs followed up with two more wins. Without Jones, and with Price and Watson away home, I dont think we have enough personell that can change a game.

    Last Sunday put me off this World Cup as you just dont know which Scotland are going to turn up. Even with a win against Samoa you wonder what will happen in the next game.

    I agree with others that there is something wrong in our camp but it is too late to look in to that just now.

    Fittest players, Fastest rugby is mince from what I seen. I want this team to Qualify but feel that our best potential 15 is not being played to give us a chance.

    Good Luck Scotland I want to see you do well.

  12. Am I right in thinking we could go out even with 3BP wins?

    A man on the ground in Japan has been sending leaks, something fishy going on. The powers that be want us out ASAP and to ensure NZ win 3 on the spin. How else can you explain that Ireland no-show and kicking it out at the end and straight after the ref had prematurely called ‘advantage over’. They were a couple phases away from a 7-pointer and a drawn match. Japan win and hey presto, Scotland are almost out already. Funny that isn’t it. Between this and the Rob Howley thing we’ve been totally stitched up.

    Can’t believe Mark Bennett wasn’t selected. We’ve shot ourselves in the foot too, in truth.

    1. Take off the tinfoil hat.

      Neither “the powers that be” or NZ care about how we get on and it’s crazy to suggest any Irish player would not give 100%. If anything NZ would rather play us than Japan in the quarters at the moment!

      Ireland kicking it out was an extremely smart move – it made sure they got the losing BP which means they are almost certain to go through.

      Look at all of the warm up games and just about every team has had a shocker and a good performance recently (which gives me a little hope for Scotland…).

      If we get 3 BP wins we are 99% through – it would put us on 15 points. Japan are on 9 so a BP against Samoa and a losing BP against us puts them on 15 as well, so we would go through due to beating them.

      The only way we don’t go through on 15 points is if Ireland drop a BP against Samoa or Russia AND at the same time Japan get a losing BP against us and a BP against Samoa.

      It is entirely in our hands.

      I agree squad selection – particularly in the centres – has been poor.

      1. Exactly, seen a lot of chat online about Ireland kicking it out at the end, smart bit of play. They had a very slim chance of a draw (2 points) a very good chance of getting no points if Japan scored again, or they could kick it out and get a guaranteed 1 point which in all likelihood has guaranteed their progression.

    2. You can’t believe Mark Bennett wasn’t selected?

      You’re having a laugh surely.

      You know he wasn’t playing like he did yesterday prior to the squad being selected? Literally nobody mentioned his name when the squad was finalised.

  13. On the subject of Mark Bennett – is was lovely to see glimpses of the form that made him world Breakthrough Player of the Year in 2015, beautiful pass to Matt Scott for Scott’s try

    1. Bennet looked happy and fit. A few more training runs against heavily depleted teams like Zebre and he will be able to test himself properly. George Biagi (a fellow old Fettesian) looked like a stranger who had wandered onto the pitch. His shorts didnt fit, socks dowm white boots. Come on George, dont just take the coin, your a Fettesian.

      1. Hahaha. 99.5% of Scotland don’t know what a ‘Fettesian’ is. This is what is wrong with Scottish rugby in a microcosm: socks being rolled down is an issue. Nobody from outside Stockbridge/Comely Bank gives a toss what school anyone went to. Michael Hooper, one of the best players in the world rolls his socks down: I assume he would not get a game for Fettes as a result of this scurrilous insult on the fields of Inverleith. Total nonsense.

      2. What is wrong with Scottish rugby is indiscipline. I rest my case. Biagi must have misplaced his garters. He would have put the house in detention for that back in the day. Discipline. peer pressure are the tenants of success.

      3. Think its pretty amusing folks that have to advertise a privileged schooling background in an attempt to feel superior over others. .a wee chink in the armour huh…Wadsworth must be gutted you went to same school as him.
        Carry on though, Harold!… I needed a chuckle….but mostly, as mentioned by another poster, a body swerve is usually the best medicine.

      4. He never said it was a privilege, he just said Biagi was letting his standards slip. If you or I dropped our standards in the wrong place , we could get in a lot of trouble.

    2. Not sure whether you are on the piss take or not but I personally find the penchant for certain Edinburgh types to advertise their schooling at every opportunity a brilliant signal to give a wide berth. It’s quite useful actually.

      Good thing Watsons taught the likes of Hastings to not only have his socks pulled up but constantly have his hair perfectly in place definitely helps the discipline in his game.

      If only the discipline at our lauded public schools was higher across the board our arse wouldn’t collapse every time a decent side reaches our 22.

      1. You know gentleman it is not just the Edinburgh old school tie that form alliances. . According to the BBC the borders chaps, Graham , Laidlaw and Hogg all hang out together in the squad. We are not the only ones to have glass boundaries.

      2. Sam it pains me to say this Hastings was indeed a very fine Watsonian , the icon of great Scottish Rugby . Discipline was the backbone of his integrity. It is a problem. Hogging the ball, leaving your chums and getting isolated, that was an offence and usually got flushed down back in the dorm.

        The famous ‘Toonie flip’ happened because Townsend went off knowing Hastings was in pursuit in fact some say it was Gavin who said ‘get up there son and make it happen’ and the rest is history. A true leader of men.

        It is rather basic rugby, all of us together girls, never mind the weather girls.

  14. We know that Scotland at the world cup have never won a game they are not expected to but have not lost one they were not expected to either.

    I am confident about beating Samoa and Russia.

    We are now ranked 9th. Japan 8th. So in theory we would not be expected to beat them.

    Add to that Japan are at home and our away record as we know is somewhat lacking.

    It is going to take an unbelievable performance for us to beat Japan. I think it is possible to beat them but whether by enough to restrict their bonus points if we need to is another matter.

    1. Hopefully Scotland win with a BP and Samoa get LBP ..that way Samoa are right in the mix ..and need to beat Japan and Ireland. We go into the last match needing to win well anyway.
      This’ll go right to the wire this group I reckon..Samoa could still shock Ireland…I wouldn’t bet against them. What are the odds of Samoa and Japan sneaking the QF spots?

  15. Right…………

    I’d assume that by the time Scotland play Japan – Scotland will have 9/10 points & Japan will have 13/14 (dependent on either teams BPs v Samoa).

    So whilst numbers are not my strong point it may well be that Scotland will NEED to score 4 tries &/or win by 9 or more & not let Japan score 4 tries…………….

    1. Correct!!! Who knows Japan could lose to Samoa. It’s possible for Japan to be inconsistent still. Scotland are that way too so why not Japan? I’d imagine it could be a struggle but we can’t bank on it.

      1. Samoa will batter Scotland and Japan. I think our 30 is stronger and Japan will be forced to field a weaker side against Scotland. We need to stop them getting ahead in the first half and allow the crowd pressure to crush them.It is a simple plan , execution in the heat will be difficult. Samoa win and bonus needed tomorrow.

  16. Can I ask some of you rugby law experts a question?

    Tagne Berne got yellow carded against us for what I thought was a decent effort to get back onside and target the ball and to me shouldn’t have been a penalty never mind a yellow. I think that was a poor decision.

    In Contrast Keith Earls in the last ditch tackle near the end of the Japan game wasn’t penalised at all other than a knock on and he never let go of the attacker and drove through the ruck without bearing his weight and was clearly stopping the attack in it’s tracks illegally. It was a penalty in front of the posts yellow card which would have meant Japan were home and hosed.

    Why were these given the way they were and was they both the correct decision???


    1. There is an easy explanation to this referendum.

      The referees make mistakes and there is not enough technology/support.

      1. Not enough technology or support? Plenty enough for these incidents sureky.

        Anyway I’m not so much asking what to do about it. Just if these decisions were correctly given by ref or if I’m my hunch that both were wrong is correct?

    2. Maybe the Beirne yellow was karma for him milking a decisive penalty for Munster against Edinburgh in the ECC QF.

      1. Not much karma. Didn’t do diddly squat to the game this time. You could see when he headed off that he knew for once he had done everything right and got pinged cause it looked bad than actually a penalty. But arguing would have looked even worse so what was the point.

    3. Completely agree that Earls was a professional foul yellow (after a fantastic tackle) in that he didn’t release the player, walked up the side and grabbed the ball while not supporting his weight. Definite penalty and then Ireland have one less point which would have serious improved our chances. Frustrating but then again we didn’t have to let them score four against us!

    4. I thought his yellow against us was for the fact that he got knocked off his feet(knee on the floor) by the clear out but than failed to release and slowed our ball.

      1. Has anyone kept count of the number of red cards given during matches vs the number given retrospectively by citing? Off the top of my head I can think of only one that has been given during the match but maybe 5 citings, thats pretty damning of the match day officials. how can it be that with a refereee, two assistants and a TMO something like 80% of dangerous tackles are being over looked during the games?

      2. Sam you are spot on. I think it’s higher than that though. There have been two reds on the field so far. You can count those that weren’t given as yellows but were cited and then not given a ban just cause they were yellows that is just as damning. I’ll have a wee look after hopefully basking in a bonus point win tomorrow and see what the reality is. But I suspect it is at least 10 citings that have been missed on the field of play so far and given after the lord mayor’s show. Terrible for the ones they are actually looking at and analysing with no real time pressure to get it right.

  17. From Japan
    The second penalty try is 100 percent misjudged.
    The referee made the match, and many Japanese feel racism to it.
    Sorrowful night game

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