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.
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.
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.
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)
- 2018 – lost to Wales (A)
Penalties: 25 (For 13 – 12 Against)
(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.
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.
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.