Scotland v Russia, RWC 2019: Match Preview pt I

KO 8.15am (4.15pm local time)
Shizuoka Stadium ECOPA, Fukuroi City

Wednesday 9th October 2019

Live on ITV1

In many ways this is a no-win game for Gregor Townsend and his squad. The gulf in expectations for these two teams at the RWC is vast. The quarter-finals are the absolute minimum standard for Scotland. Russia will be happy just to be in Japan after qualifying due to points deductions for both Romania and Spain in the Rugby Europe Championship.

No matter the opposition once the game kicks off it’s 15 v 15 and there’s always the risk of some catastrophic error(s) undermining even the most careful preparations. Recent losses to USA and Fiji will be fresh in the minds within the Scotland setup and they will know that this may be the strongest Scotland squad to feature at a RWC for some time but if they are not playing at near enough 100% things can still go wrong.

A BP win is required to maximise Scotland’s potential routes to qualification to the knock-out stages ahead of a do or die game against Japan (permutations here). The dark blues have been reasonably good at collecting try BPs against opposition from outwith Tier 1 in RWCs. They cannot afford for this to be a day when they don’t win. They cannot afford for this to be a day when they leave the bonus point hanging.

Scotland try BPs versus opposition outwith Tier 1 in RWCs:

  • 2003 – USA ✔; Japan ✔; Fiji ✖
  • 2007 – Romania ✔; Portugal ✔
  • 2011 – Romania ✔; Georgia ✖
  • 2015 – Japan ✔; USA ✔; Samoa ✖

Russia Scouting Report

Record in this RWC cycle

Played – 42
Won – 24
Drawn – 0
Lost – 18

Russia only played a single full Test against Tier 1 opposition between the end of the 2015 RWC and the start of the current tournament, losing 85 – 15 away to Italy as part of their World Cup preparations. Their other games prior to heading to Japan were uncapped and saw them go down to club sides Jersey and Connacht.

Danger man

Kirill Golsnitskiy scored the opening try of this World Cup against Japan and has been Russia’s most consistent threat in attack. Playing on the wing (v Japan and Samoa) and in the centres (v Ireland) he’s had 2 clean breaks and 10 defenders beaten so far.

At 25 he’s one of the youngest in the Russian squad (the majority of whom were born in the 1980s) and should return for the 2023 RWC in France. If the injury that saw him leave the field early against Ireland keeps him out of this game that is bad news for Russia.

A word also for Tagir Gadzhiev, the Bears’ number 7. The flanker has been their most consistent source of front foot ball as well as an aggressive presence in defence. Scotland will need to be wary of letting him become too influential on the game.

Key stats from previous matches in Pool A

Russia have already played Japan, Samoa and Ireland in this tournament. These were some of the takeaways from those fixtures:

  • 1 try scored. Golsnitskiy may have notched the first score of the tournament but Russia have failed to add any further tries in the 235 minutes of game time that have elapsed since then.
  • 35 tackles missed by Russia’s midfield axis (10/12/13). There was an improvement against Ireland (although this in large part came down to Irish tactics trading dynamism for control) but against the looser stylings of Japan and Samoa the Russian midfield only made 35 tackles while missing 28 for a pretty dire 56% completion.
  • 19 clean breaks given up to opposition wingers. The Russian defence has had some particular struggles covering the flanks. Their opponents’ wide men have not only managed those 19 clean breaks but also beaten 44 tackles. Whoever Scotland pick (Tommy Seymour + Darcy Graham with Blair Kinghorn seems most likely) they should be looking to take serious advantage in this area.
  • 5 ruck turnovers against Ireland. Russia did manage to disrupt the Irish juggernaut at times with Gadzhiev to the fore. Scotland need consistent quick ball to allow them to challenge Russia out wide. They cannot afford to let ruck ball be delayed or stolen.
  • 10 penalties and 2 yellow cards v Ireland. After 2 pretty disciplined performances against Japan (5 pens, no cards) and Samoa (6 pens, 1 yellow card) Russia struggled to cope with the increased pressure brought to bear by Ireland. Scotland’s pack will be key to stressing the Russian frontline defence and winning opportunities to gain territory through penalties.

Previous results

Scotland have never before played Russia. The Bears will be the 23rd different nation Scotland have had a full capped Test match against. They will be just the 3rd new opponent in the 21st century after Portugal (2007) and Georgia (2011).

Following Wednesday’s game the only country at this RWC that Scotland will have never played a Test against will be Namibia. The 5 countries that Scotland have met in full capped internationals that are not at this RWC are Ivory Coast, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Zimbabwe.

Officials

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referee 1: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referee 2: Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

M. Raynal was the man in the middle for two of Scottish rugby’s biggest disasters in this decade – Tonga at Pittodrie in 2012 and England at Twickenham in 2017. Lightning cannot strike three times surely?!?

To Scotland’s benefit is the French whistler’s tendency to strongly favour the team going forward and taking charge. If Gregor Townsend’s side get on the front foot and in control in attack they should have the official onside.

Scotland’s previous games with M. Raynal in charge:

  • 2012 – lost to Tonga (H)
    Penalties: 37 (For 25 – 12 Against)
    Cards: Tonga 3 YCs
  • 2017 – lost to England (A)
    Penalties: 18 (For 5 – 13 Against)
    Cards: Scotland 1 YC (Fraser Brown)
  • 2018 – beat Argentina (A)
    Penalties: 18 (For 10 – 8 Against)
    Cards: none
  • 2018 – lost to Wales (A)
    Penalties: 25 (For 13 – 12 Against)
    Cards: none

The Teams

(UPDATE: 7/10): The teams are out. With one eye on the final pool match versus Japan, it’s nearly all change for Scotland with just Darcy Graham returning to the starting lineup from the Samoa game.

Eight frontline players are rested completely from the matchday 23 – Allan Dell, Jonny Gray, Blade Thomson, Greig Laidlaw, Finn Russell, Sam Johnson, Sean Maitland and Stuart Hogg.

Scotland
Backs: Blair Kinghorn, Tommy Seymour, Duncan Taylor, Peter Horne, Darcy Graham, Adam Hastings, George Horne; Gordon Reid, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Ben Toolis, John Barclay (capt), Fraser Brown, Ryan Wilson.
Replacements: Stuart McInally, Simon Berghan, Willem Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Ritchie, Henry Pyrgos, Chris Harris.

Russia
Backs: Vasily Artemyev (capt), German Davydov, Vladimir Ostroushko, Dimitry Gerasimov, Vladislav Sozonov, Ramil Gaisin, Dmitry Perov; Valery Morozov, Stanislav Selskii. Kirill Gotovtsev, Andrey Ostrikov, Evgeny Elgin, Vitaly Zhivatov, Tagir Gadzhiev, Nikita Vavilin.
Replacements:  Sergey Chernyshev, Azamat Bitiev, Vladimir Podrezov, Bogdan Fedotko, Andrey Garbuzov, Sergey Ianiushkin, Anton Sychev, Yury Kushnarev.

Part II of the preview, including the head to heads, will follow on Tuesday.

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When he's not watching Glasgow, Scotland (and even Edinburgh) Kevin can usually be found with his head in a spreadsheet working out the most obscure Scottish rugby related stat he can put out on Twitter.
Follow Kevin on twitter @topofthemoonGW

64 comments on “Scotland v Russia, RWC 2019: Match Preview pt I

  1. Campbell B on

    According to the tackle statistics Russia are vulnerable in the mid field,surely a team like Scotland can exploit this ! I would play Gilco and Toolis , take them on in the set piece and let the back row combine with our midfield, Hawick 1970’s style rugby. This does not need the fast game, this needs a KGB boiler house (Hamilton and Hines style) roughing it out and basic competence behind. Play Pyrgos, he is a bit wooden, he is dispensable (Sorry Henry ) and we need Horne for Japan.

    ‘ The quarter-finals are the absolute minimum standard for Scotland. ‘ I am pleased you agree Kevin. Let’s save that quote for the following game. I cannot wait, either way, it is going to be emotional.

  2. Neil on

    Team announced and exactly as predicted bar starting Reid where i went for Berghan.

    Only 2 back subs so i be would looking to bring on Harris for either Graham or Kinghorn (depending on who they are looking at starting) quite early on if we have the BP.

  3. Stu2 on

    Why would you have all 3 of our hookers involved in a match 23 in a RWC – 4 days before our biggest match in 4yrs?

    • FF on

      So that our starting back row against Japan doesn’t have to take the field if all goes to plan.

      If we assume Brown and Turner
      make it through without injury whoever sits in the bench against Japan will only expect to play the last 20minutes.

      • Stu2 on

        Then you bring a lock/6 – Skinner was that – maybe he should have replace him with another, you dont risk all 3 hookers in one match 23.

      • Bazz on

        ‘Then you bring a lock/6 – Skinner was that – maybe he should have replace him with another, you don’t risk all 3 hookers in one match 23.’

        What a farcical alternative. Swinson was our only real option in that respect….did you really want him in a 31 man squad just for this one occurrence? In no way is that justified…

    • Fraser on

      I wouldn’t, but maybe he wants to give Brown a bit more game time at flanker so if he needs to come on there against Japan due to injuries he will be more match fit in the position?

      • Referendum on

        McInally will only play in emergency I’d imagine. And Brown will be off early too I’d imagine. More worried about Ritchie getting an injury. He’s absolutely key now. Wouldn’t like to see Bradbury injured now either.

    • Grumpy on

      I think it is irresponsible to have all three squad hookers in this match with a 4 day turnaround .What if they get injured? You need at least two for the 23 to face Japan.

      I doubt we would be allowed to face Japan unless we can field 2 fit hookers and someone will correct me if wrong but not all injuries will render a player out for the tournament and allow a replacement to be shipped in.

      If we did need to ship one in, that is a major risk with the turnaround.What a reckless gambler.

      • RuggersB on

        I think what this RWC has proven is that 31 players really is too small a squad. Either they increase the duration of the tournament or they increase the player pools.
        4 day turnarounds for a high level full contact sport is ridiculous….for all the teams.

      • Bazz on

        Brown wont be starting so him starting at 7 means Ritchie doesn’t have to start 2 games in 4 days. Sensible decision I thought.

        If Brown or Turner get injured early it will be Bradbury or Ritchie doing the replacing. McInally might not even come on and give Turner the full 80…but it’s good to have him as an option in the last 20 if we are struggling.

        P.S There is ALWAYS a risk that 2 hookers can get injured in a single game because you will always have 2 in your 23.

  4. Fraser on

    More or less the expected team – little bit concerned that if things aren’t firing the bench isn’t going to be able to turn things around so would have had some of the big guns available.

    Having said that, if this team can’t get a bonus point against Russia we don’t deserve to go through.

    Have a feeling this is the type of game Horne and Hastings will run riot as they are very good on front foot ball (not always so much under pressure…)

    • Andyc on

      Agreed re squad size. Given turnaround time and attritional style of modern rugby. As for Russia game a key has to be patience

  5. Johnny b on

    ‘The quarter-finals are the absolute minimum standard for Scotland’

    I see this as an example of the kind of flakiness from fans and pundits which doesn’t help.

    What is the median acceptable standard? Presumably the semis which means that to exceed we’d have to teach the final?

    Setting your minimum standard as an outcome which currently looks unlikely isn’t sensible.

    It is better to have a realistic target, which is to beat both Russia and Japan and to try to win both with a bonus point but above all to show the kind of rugby in both fixtures that we know the team is capable of.

    Getting a BP against Japan or denying them an LB might be a tall order.

    Even Russia can scramble about and make life difficult if the team plays within itself.

    The team needs to be freed up. No expectations except that they do their best and show some of the rugby we know is in them.

    • Neil on

      You should not set expectations during or just before a world cup.

      They are set 2/3 years beforehand when we see the potential & results of a team.

      If we were to say what we expect Scotland to achieve at this WC 2-3 years ago, i think most people would say reaching the semi final would be a realistic target. QF obviously minimum, anything worse is a catastrophic outcome.

      • Johnny b on

        Of course you should revise your expectations as tournaments progress!

        I haven’t crunched the numbers but I bet that in RWCs to date winning 3 pool games has been enough to earn a QF 90% of the time.

        On this occasion, however, Japan have already won 3 pool games, so if we beat Russia and Japan then a side which has won 3 pool games will be going home.

        This was the situation in our group in 2015 too, and it isn’t normal.

        So yes, in light of the fact that we could do enough to earn a QF in 90% of RWCs yet still go home expectations should absolutely be revised!

        That isn’t saying we don’t want to go through or shouldn’t try, it’s just saying fans should be realistic.

        I can already see this place blowing up with conspiracy theories, calls for Townsend’s head, calls for Cockers etc. If we don’t and I find all that embarrassing.

        The Scotland team has a reputation for being flaky, easy to beat in the psychological game and weak away from home but I think that starts with the fans who are also all over the shop!

        I was born a Scot and I want us to do well in all sports and it’s unconditional. The only thing I want to see is the team playing somewhere close to its potential.

      • RuggersB on

        I get what you are saying…however … the reality is that every fan of every top rugby , and sports in general, craves success. Success is not just playing ‘close’ to potential. It is fulfilling that potential. It is about competing and winning…and it is what all top coaches and players are ultimately judged on.
        Fans used to failed expectations fall into apathetic responses. Its like a defense mechanism to avoid looking like a sucker for the umpteenth time…or to cushion the future disappointment of another failed hope.
        Rugby is a sport…and its about competing hard and winning…and for a fan its an emotional ride that we buy into…with the ultimate hope of success to prove it was all worth it and we we made the right choice.
        Rugby is not an amateur sport and money is invested into the sport by people who expect a return. Poor results = less value = a poor investment.
        Results matter and this will be seen as a poor RWC for Scotland if not even reaching a stage in line with their ranking level going into the comp.

      • Johnny b on

        There’s something a bit narcissistic about this.

        People projecting themselves into the team and getting so het up when they don’t do well.

        It’s a sense of entitlement almost.

        I think there’s an element of the fair weather fan in some Scottish supporters and I don’t think it helps. It creates this pressure cooker that the team lives in.
        Just relax. The players are good enough.

        I want them to win, believe me, but if they don’t I’m not going to demand Townsend or the players’ heads on a plate and I’ll switch on again in the 6N.

      • J B Lake ww on

        This is clearly a wind up gents.

        The fans are at fault now ? why ?because they want the players to do their best ?

        The players admit they can do better, and the fans want them to do better ! all good.

        What is narcissistic about that ?

        The only person that is saying under performing is ok is you Johnny b and the players will not thank you for that! Real Fans , fair weather fans, all sounds like we are back to that again.

      • Not rocket science on

        Tbf Johnny B, I think everyone just got f***ed off with how sh**e we played against Ireland.

      • Johnny b on

        The Ireland game was really bad. We seem to need a bad game before we can have a good one and that inconsistency is the no.1, 2 & 3 things on the list of things Toonie needs to get a handle on.
        It’s been a problem for a while – multiple seasons and I think it’s definitely a confidence thing. We expected Ireland to beat us.

        Narcissistic a bit strong but games haven’t been played and people talk about sacking their way through the entire population of scotland and probably New Zealand in search of a completely new coach and a team.

        Sometimes I think it’s no wonder the team is flaky when you look at the fans.

        What is wrong with the team and coaches we have?
        Inconsistency?
        Yes, but we also know what they can do so better consistency could probably be coached.

        Get behind them!

  6. jimmythefish on

    What do we know about the team the Russians have picked? They are predominantly over 30 y/o and the bench looks underwhelming – mainly forwards (3xfront row, two 2R and one flanker) and the two backs are both fly halves – does this mean their team is stacked with big guys, with a replacement front 5 to come on after 50 minutes? Any other insights, particularly where they play their rugby at club level, who the key players are and how they match up to our boys would be insightful.

    If Scotland are as fit as the press suggest they are, we should be able to run away with it in the latter parts of the game, provided we’ve fronted up in the first half and avoided stupid errors through pressing too early. Lets hope Fagerson keeps his cool and avoids collapsing the scrum through having his feet too far back. Set piece in the early stages and delivering fast ball will be crucial.

  7. Matto on

    Well… in the last 2 to 3 years we’ve generally been slogging along the 7/8/9th in the World, jockying with France and Argentina to stay in what could be considered the RWC quarter final category (i.e. the top 8). Hanging around the bottom of that group is a precarious place to be when it comes to the RWC and the top 6 teams (that you would expect to populate the semis) have generally stayed out of touch with the exception of the odd drop in form. The exquisitely-timed rise in form of Japan has made our quarter final peg all the more shoogly. The realistic target for this tournament was to beat all of our teir 2 opponents and give our best performance against Ireland, which should have got us to the quarters, and then a performance there too. So status report currently is one below par, with much still to lose and only a bit of respect to gain by BPing both our remaining opponents…

    • RuggersB on

      The thing is though, and I agree we have historically been hovering around 7,8 ranking….BUT we did reach 5th and now under GT we have dropped back pretty sharpish and are on the edge of falling into the 2nd tier status. Our under 20s just dropped out the top tier….and if the same happens at the senior level…we are in trouble. It makes it even tougher to progress at major competition. Look at Scotlands football team….they dropped down the rankings and then couldn’t find a way back…and are now just a sinking ship..unable to reach any competition of note. Same could happen in rugby.
      We do have the most developed and talented group of players we have had in the pro era…although that is essentially…and feeling and not a fact…and so though all things considered it feels like we have largely underachieved.
      The Japan team…for eg..James Moore … was struggling in his career in Australia..was playing at lower tier club rugby. Hey ho ..went to Japan…and got chucked straight into the 1st team under residency ruling.
      Are we saying that we aint even that good that we are competing with that level? With a squad of players virtually all playing for the top rugby sides in the northern hemisphere.
      There is alot of pressure on our coaches and players now….Id say there is actually less pressure on Japan in the final match.
      We’ll either sink or swim.

  8. SB on

    I’m sure Kevin will tell us how many Russians are playing their fourth test in 20 days. I expect them to tire quickly if we keep the pace high.

  9. Rosco on

    Forecasts predict Typhoon due to hit the Ireland match on Sunday. They can still draw and Scotland don’t get through so win still required. Watching with interest!

    • dwest on

      Aye – typhoon Haggis ( Hagibis is Japanese for Haggis right ;))to the rescue to make up for that dodgy decision by the Samoan’s to go for the scrum.

      • RuggersB on

        the decision to penalize the angle of the scrum feed was the real ‘dodgy’ part. i can’t remember the last scrum feed I saw penalized. On such a critical match and stage of match??……hmmm ….smells like….
        What are the odds on an equally ‘dodgy’ call rearing its head against Scotland at a vital stage of the match? You know its gonna happen….Australia QF ’15…Take 2! No penalty tries for us in that one!! We win…just…LBP to Japan…we’re out..the way Japan are talking in the press…they have already read the script!
        Tell ya what tho… who ever qualifies ahead of us might as well book their flights or Uber home now anyway…NZ and SA ..are gonna shred them.

      • 1.8T on

        Ali Price had one penalised a while ago, I think a 6N match, I remember because I just about threw the remote through the TV.

        Ludicrous, why does a ref decide now and again that one is “too squint”, they are all squint!

  10. john martin on

    A wee aside from the World Cup……Watching Edinburgh in their 1st 2 games – Bennett & Crosbie look well capable of being in the Scotland squad (just wish Duhan VDM had joined Edinburgh 6 months earlier)

    • RuggersB on

      Well they’ll have their chances in the 6N Id expect. Wonder whose going to hang up their Scotland boots after this comp?
      Barclay, Laidlaw, Maitland, Seymour, Nel, Reid….?? GT and co back to club rugby?..all possibles depending how we go in the next week.
      Bennett and Crosbie could very well get back into Scotland fold.

      • Sam Benedict on

        Guessing the 6N squad will have a few changes. Stewart for Kerr, Kebble for Allan, McCallum for Nel, Cummings and Richie Gray in for Harley and Swinson, Carmichael and Crosbie in for Barclay and Wilson, Bradbury and Thomson in, Shiel in for Laidlaw, Bennett and Hutchinson in, Hoyland in for Seymour…all change!

      • Johnny b on

        Why are you talking about GT going back to club rugby?

        What’s he going to learn there?

        He’s an international coach now, and not a very experienced one.
        Danny Wilson is the same.

        Most insiders would rate Toonie and Wilson as among the most promising young coaches about but compared to Warren Gatland or Eddie Jones who’ve been at that level for 20 years they are babies.

        We made the mistake of dropping Vern when he’d just got a handle on being the national coach, I don’t think we should make the same error with Toonie.

      • J B Lake ww on

        I like your honesty , dropping Cotter was, indeed, a mistake ,it was wrong. But to suggest that not dealing with the current situation is also wrong. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

        Jones and Gatland were up and coming once, long before they arrived in their current posts.

    • Mac2 on

      Agree with the above but the absolute standout performer for me has been Schoeman – looked world class v Blues, really hope South Africa don’t wake up to his situation until he’s captured for us

      • john martin on

        Agree Mac2, Schoeman has been sensational, alas he missed the 3 year thing & will not be qualified until 2023. He said he wanted to take out Scottish citizenship so may not want a SA call up

    • Johnny b on

      Gatland’s record with Ireland was not great. It improved when they got the golden generation but they didn’t win a 6N and he was sacked in 2001, a season in which we gave them a battering.

      Eddie Jones was sacked by Australia.

      You crank that revolving door and you begin to look like a real basket case. Really flaky.
      Like Scottish football.

      Then nobody will want to coach you.

      • J-B Lake Ww on

        Jphnny : So two of the most successful coaches in the existing home unions were sacked in their first international posts ! Are you not arguing against your own point?

        This is not Toonies fault , other than he was desperate for Cotters job and for that reason , I have no sympathy. He got what he wanted , now it is completely realistic for us to expect delivery. Check mate.

        By your very own admission, letting Cotter go was a mistake.

        No one wants to coach us already ,as we let Cotter go for an ambitious local boy with a limited track record and a maverick playing style. I would argue we will gain respect by admitting we got it wrong and doing nothing will entrench the view we are inward looking. Worst thing we can do – is NOTHING.

      • Referendum on

        I’m with you on this one Johnny b. Letting Cotter go for me wasn’t either a mistake or a victory. I’d imagine we’d have the same mixed bag with Cotter but probably a different mixed bag. Townsend has brought some epic results just like Cotter did. Cotter brought in some awful memories as has Townsend. We would never have had that Twickenham experience with any other coach and in some ways however heartbreaking it was I’m glad it is in the memories. We can look back in it and marvel at it and over time it’ll be remembered as possibly the best rugby match ever to be staged. It was that good and unexpected on so many levels.

        I’m glad we have Townsend and if he is given time he’ll win us a Six Nations within 3 years. 2020 is probably a very good time to give it our best.

      • Johnny b on

        No my point is that lots of Irish fans now think getting rid of Gatland on the back of a disappointing 2001 6N was a mistake when you look at what he went on to achieve……
        With other teams….

        If we sacked Toonie I doubt he’d go back to Scottish club rugby. I suspect he’d either go to France or get a job with another union, and it would be our loss.

        IMO due partly to form and injury the team entered the RWC possibly where you’d want it to be mid-cycle, not at the end.

        Maybe a bit of Toonie tinkering comes into it, but if you think of our back row….. you’d want to go into an RWC with that combo being 1st choice for at least 2 seasons, not picking then for the 1st time in your 2nd pool game.

        Centre is a similar story. You cannot account for the way players like Dunbar and Jones have dropped off a cliff or Bennett and Taylor have been injured while Harris has emerged right at the end of the cycle.

        Players like Scott Cummings and Darcy Graham you would also ideally want to be starting from 2 seasons before the RWC, not just before/ during it.

        That’s the big difference between us and a team like Ireland. They’re settled, we’re not.

        Toonie needs to deal with that and I think he will, but sacking him would just add to the occasionally flustered feel about our team.

        Let Toonie develop and let his team develop under him imo.

      • Jon B lake Ww on

        I will need to take your word for it – if you can point me to a single article with fans saying that , it would be credible. As far as I can see Gats has done well at Wales , won a few 6n’s and Ireland have become World Number 1’s with Schmidt (No one is bemoaning Gatland). This blog will shortly be brimming with evidence of Scotland’s regression and I look forward to your factual responses.

      • SomeRandomBint on

        J-B Here you go – https://www.irishtimes.com/sport/rugby/international/irish-rugby-the-loser-for-treatment-of-warren-gatland-1.3396559

        Whilst you’re waxing lyrical about the success of the likes of Eddie Jones, it’s worth noting that he’s had a not too dissimial trajectory to Toonie. Strong start, new dawn after the embarrassment of the World Cup. And then the wheels start to come off with their disasterous 2018 6N, and flinging away a 31 point lead at home to Scotland earlier this year due to “mental frailties”. No calls for his head though – but plenty of questions of the players (which is as it should be).

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with examining the issues that Scotland are facing, but calling for Toonie’s head every time Scotland have a bad result is beginning to look increasingly bizarre – especially because this is a team in flux (and will continue to be when Laidlaw et all wave farewell in the not too distance future).

      • Feepole on

        With you on this one Johnny. Sorry to see Big Vern go, felt it was wrong decision, but absolutely have to stick with Gregor at this stage.
        Scotland’s biggest issue of late has been continuity.
        If we have a terrible 2020 6N and Autumn test, unattributable to some injury meltdown, I would consider looking afresh then, but for now stick with the plan ( insofar as the words ‘Toonie’ and ‘plan’ go together!)

      • Johnny b on

        J-B ireland with probably a better team than they have now won a single championship in the o’sullivan/ kidney era while Wales in the same period under gatland and with no more raw talent than ireland won slams in 08 and 12 and a couple of championships eg in 2013.
        So yes Irish fans did think it was a mistake to sack Gatland.
        I think unless there is a big hitting international coach who wanted the scotland job it would be crazy to even think of ditching Toonie, and even a big hitting coach would need a couple of seasons to get his head around everything.

        I’m sure whatever happens this RWC Toonie knows what he’s got to do – cut the propensity to get rolled over in opening fixtures which kills momentum and confidence before you even get out the blocks.

        There’s no reason why this should happen, the players are good enough.

        There’s some issue with confidence and I think selection which Toonie needs to settle. I’m sure he knows it and will sort it out.

        Not if we sack him tho, then it will be back to sq 1.

      • RuggersB on

        JB….
        The reasons I think GT may go back to club rugby is because…
        He left it too early in the 1st place. He came into test rugby management naively believing there is only one way to play rugby…He has looked every inch a backs coach that forgot that what backs can do with ball in hand is irrelevant if you dont have the forwards and tactics to win the ball off the opposition and feed them.
        He doesn’t look like he enjoys international management to me….mainly because I sense his disappointment that his ideals are not producing the results he hoped for.
        He does have potential to be an excellent test coach…but he will have to learn to adapt his approach or he won’t be.
        To be honest what I think might have worked best was employing both Cotter and Townsend. Cotter would have installed the reality and grit into GTs ideals and vice versa. Whether that was feasible would depend on the ego’s of both coaches.
        The underlying issue for Scotland, to me, (that all Scotland coaches have to deal with) is this ‘unlucky loser’ ..’brave loss’.. ‘moral victory’…attitude. It needs to be erased! We never display the level of confidence and arrogance required to dominate and close out important matches on a consistent basis.
        Gatland, Schmit , Hanson, Erasmus…..thats what separates those guys and what they impose on a team. Ir remains to be seen whether GT ever will.

      • TeamCam on

        Our forwards were fine under Toonie until McFarland left, just as Glasgow’s were. There’s been a lot of turnover, both in the coaching staff and in the players and it sometimes takes time for this stuff to get sorted out.

        Claiming that Toonie doesn’t understand the importance of the forwards is laughable.

      • Johnny b on

        RuggersB – I think the lack of confidence cannot be totally divorced from the culture of Scottish rugby of which the fans are a part.

        Wales have some class players for sure but if you compared them to England or France you would conclude they are greater than the sum of their parts.

        I think it helps that when you play wales there is a real sense you are playing the whole country.

        You don’t get that with Scotland imo.
        Games haven’t even started and the feeling is 1 part sky high expectation and 1 part chat about sacking the coach and the players.

        It’s bonkers. It’s dispiriting. It’s not, in my view, going to help the team.

      • RuggersB on

        J-B…I think reading the various top countries rugby blogs… you’ll find all the same level of criticisms in regards to their respective players and coaches. Everyone wants results and performances and when they don’t happen consistently or at all ..people want changes..it’s the way it is. Its not a mindset specific to Scotland. Nobody wants to keep supporting mediocrity or humiliating results. If an RU org are doing nothing to change a negative pattern it just implies acceptance and apathy. To be fair a typical time frame to say a coach has had a fair crack of the whip is a World Cup cycle. What if GT has another poor 6N?

        Team Cam … you just backed up my point about GT and the forwards. So it was Dan Macfarland who was responsible for any successful forward play …For Glas and Sco not GT..

      • Bass Rock on

        I see no one wants to answer JB Lakes’ question. Have the counter arguments run out of steam? Jonny B’s counter argument over these boards is all about how Scottish fans expectations are unrealistic, destructive, not real fans even , yet no one can state what is realistic for the 2020 6N’s. It is offensive to blame the fans. yet be unprepared to say what is realistic.

        I will answer JB lake. Toonie cannot deliver an improved 6N in 2020, so we know the answer already. We have regressed a long way since 2016/17 and 2017/18.

        Cotter led us through 3, 6N’s and delivered 0, 2 and in 2017, 3 wins. Toonie delivered 3 6n wins in 2018 , 1 win plus a draw in 2019.

        I do not believe we can mprove in 1 year. Why ? Answer : In 2020 Scotland have 3 away matches (including Italy) and 2 home games (including France) .

        I think we could get 2 wins (France and Italy) which would be realistic. However that is not progression. Because that would be less than Cotter in 2017 and Toonie himself in 2018.

        I think the argument that we need to carry on and decide on 2020 results is unrealistic ( he cannot improve beyond where he was in his first year , and the squad he inherited is more mature with a sprinkle of promising youngsters. Not to mention his new finds Harris and McGuigan .

        I think this concludes the argument. Well played JBL , you have exposed the WUM once again.

      • J B Lake ww on

        I had never realized how tricky it will be for Toonie to show progress. It will indeed be difficult to just gain 2 wins and a third only would bring us back to where we started , however that would be progress.

        Just a reminder of Rory Baldwins summary of Cotter in this Blog 2nd Feb 2017 and the optimism we placed in Gregor. I suggest we even in the heat of Japan, are sailing close to that Iceberg yet again.

        ‘Vern already has the ship pointing away from the iceberg (6N notwithstanding) and Toony will have to evolve the team to a greater level to avoid the “why did we let Vern go?” questions from the start. Luckily for Gregor despite a patchy international spell as backs coach, he has done superb work at Glasgow building on Lineen’s foundations so the track record is there.’

      • J B Lake ww on

        Some randombint: The article says a lot of things , however it does not say it has regrets over letting Gatland go and it is not representing ‘Irish fans’. It says his relationship since has been ‘fractious’ it does remind its readers they gave him opportunities , it says his demeanor with them is ‘doleful’ which means ‘expressing sorrow’. over (his parting ) not the other way around . I can understand how it could be misunderstood , it appears to be saying everything and nothing of any substance other than to say , Ireland gave him his early opportunities.That is my opinion on a strage article , thank you for it , however I am not buying it.

  11. 1.8T on

    Starting 15 is pretty much as we all guessed I suppose other than Brown at 7 but without that, one of our probably starting back row for Japan would have to start. I would have expected a few more of the cavalry on the bench, just in case, but I expect (other than Brown) we will try to get most of the starting 15 through 80mins and only use the bench if we have to.

    We came into this expecting to lose to Ireland and having to win the rest of the games so nothing has really changed. If Japan go through by a point instead of us then it’s because they beat Ireland and they would fully deserve it. The fact we capitulated against Ireland puts us at a huge disadvantage, no losing BP and a huge points deficit that we would need a cricket score against Russia to rectify.

    Mon the typhoon! Literally nothing would make me happier than both us and Japan going through!

    • J B Lake ww on

      I think you are saying if Japan beat Scotland they have earned a place in the Quarters. Ireland by virtue of beating Scotland and denying a bonus point deserve to take the other place. Well I agree, that is what the table will show.

      What I disagree with in most of the above posts whether implicit or explicit , is that Scotland came into this tournament to exit at pool stage.

      I disagree that players, fans, officials , the SRU or Gregor Townsend believed their side were capable of losing so convincingly to Ireland !

      Anyone who thinks otherwise has my ear if they can present a tangible counter argument.

      I agree with Kevin in that existing at pool stage is the minimum standard for a top 8 side (and we have been largely since the last RWC). Anything less does not show progression, it does not show standing still.

      What it does show, is, regression. That will have consequences and I hope we do not have to deal with that.

      • SB on

        “I disagree that players, fans, officials , the SRU or Gregor Townsend believed their side were capable of losing so convincingly to Ireland !”

        Ireland have beaten us something like 8 times out of the last 9. With quite a few hidings in there.

      • J-B Lake ww on

        SB : Well I wont rob you opinion ,however you can read what I have been reading ,in this blog . It was expected to be tight, not overwhelming.
        I can easily evidence my opinion , these posts were full of confidence, many believing it was neither home or away so no advantage to either side , Scotland beat Ireland as recently as 2017 in the 6N, Ireland were on a downward spiral prior to the tournament (it is all here), they had injury’s to key players.

        Neither Townsend or his coaches , had an answer after the match (shell shocked), McInally had no answer afterwards (Did not make the post match interview), when he did , clearly ,devastated. It is all on record if you wish to read it.

        What is more Japan , who are considered a tier 2 (RW no 11 prior to their win), have just beaten Ireland , admittedly after we softened them up for them.

        For these reasons , and with the utmost respect to your opinion , I will not be changing my position on this point.

      • Referendum on

        J-B Lake I agree with what you have said. Very few expected a result like that or to not even have a close run attempt of a try scoring opportunity was well below our expectations for the match.

      • RuggersB on

        JB l… lol .. we softened up Ireland for Japan?? Ireland ran over us without breaking sweat .. they probably had a tougher time in non contact training.

  12. j blake ww on

    No evidence just an opinion. That is ok, opinions are welcome, facts are stronger. I will stick with my assessment of Toonie. If we exit before the Semis , we are back at SQ1 , and that will be a fact. But we wont , we are better than that.

    Incidentally the NZ All Blacks fans also think Gatland should have stayed with Ireland.They think Ireland made the wrong decision back then as well.

  13. DarkHorses on

    If Scotland were to scrape through on a win against Japan and/or picking up enough bonus points, they would likely play NZ in the QF wouldn’t they…. ? Even the eternal optimist amongst us isn’t seriously thinking Scotland can pull that off. More likely another embarrassing humbling – think France game in Nice, or opening WC game against Ireland, but with even bigger numbers ! So realistically, getting to the QF itself is the best case expectation.

    • Bass Rock on

      Are you saying the minimum expectation and the ‘best case ‘expectation are one and the same. Reaching the quarters is what we came here to do ? or do you not agree?

    • JohnMc on

      I can see why you would say that and don’t really disagree based on Scotland’s recent form.
      Except that in the 2017 AIs – ok, at Murrayfield- we got to within a brilliant Beauden Barrett tackle of getting under the posts to earn a conversion to beat NZ for the first time in our history. A NZ that was better than their current side, and whom we would have beaten if they’d got the second yellow when Read fouled on their line to prevent a try.
      So, let’s beat Russia well. Then beat Japan and qualify. Then see what we can do if we get that far.
      If it is NZ in the QF, then just bring it on and see what happens. ABs certainly wouldn’t be complacent.

      • RuggersB on

        That was a friendly match…that we yet again lost. NZ were far more clinical in that match and we were always playing catchup.
        Hogg started making a great break but then made the wrong decision and went wider for glory when he should have gone infield and retained the ball in an excellent position with players following up….but Ooh Not …he wanted the match winning try. It wasn’t an amazing tackle …it was a regular cover tackle into touch.
        Thats Hogg in a nutshell tho…and we played well and competed against NZ but ultimately showed yet again that we cant close a big match out. We are like a deer in headlights in the biggies!
        Just like the England ‘amazing’ comeback…got our noses in front and hey ho….’what do we do know??’ look on our chevy chases.Ohh i know…we retreat to our try line quickly and let them trott through for a try…ahh that’s better…i feel comfortable now…we got a draw ..I mean a moral victory!’ …sigh!!

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