MAGNUS BRADBURY was not in the selection mix for Scotland’s first World Cup warm-up match against France on Saturday due to an injury he picked up last week. He joins Fraser Brown [toe] and Sam Johnson [ankle] on the unavailable list for this weekend, but all three are expected to be fit again by the time the plane leaves for Japan midway through next month.
“He got a whack in the ribs from his team-mates in [the training game against] Edinburgh the other day,” explained head coach Gregor Townsend. “Both him and Sam, we are looking to have involved probably in the third game, at a push the second game against France at home. Fraser could be available for the final game but the way we are thinking just now is that it would be probably after that – just being available for the World Cup.”
On the whole, Scotland have been pretty fortunate with injuries so far during the build-up to the World Cup, but with thing about to crank up a notch during Scotland four warm-up matches over the next four weekends, it seems highly unlikely that there will not be a few casualties along the way, but there is no point fretting about something that cannot be controlled reasons Townsend.
“Going into this final period before we cut down the squad, we expect to pick up injuries – if you get very lucky you pick up zero to one, if you get really unlucky you pick up closer to 10 – but we all know there will be injuries,” he said. “It is the nature of the sport. We’ll be really gutted if our players miss out this close to the tournament having done all the hard work, but we’ll just have to move on.”
Of course, the threat of injury does not disappear once the tournament starts, and with each squad limited to just 31 players there is not much wriggle room when players drop out during the actual tournament. Ideally, a suitable back-up player would be close at hand when that happens, but the reality is that any Scotland player coming into the squad will have to make the long journey from Europe to East Asia after the call-up.
“I think maybe over the last two or three World Cups there have been a few players from one or two countries taking holiday in that area, but I believe that is much stricter this year so I don’t think you think will see many Scots holidaying in Tokyo,” said Townsend.
“They will be back at their clubs playing pre-season games and into the season with Edinburgh and Glasgow, or in the Premiership Cup in England, and in France I think they will be half way through their season by the time the World Cup kicks off! So, the players in Europe will already be used to playing games and taking hits, and they know they’ve got to be ready.
“We’ve already spoken to the four players that were released last week to keep the training up. They’ve made very good shifts physically this summer so they need to keep that going with their clubs because they could be getting a call. And the same goes with the nine players that don’t make the final squad.
“The biggest challenge is between Russia and Japan. If we pick up an injury in the Russia game, to fly people out would be a huge challenge to go into the starting XV. Some people, depending on the position, might have to go on the bench, but we’re going to have to be ready for that.”