DAVID BARNES in SHIZUOKA
DUNCAN TAYLOR was the only injury concern to come out of Scotland’s resounding victory over Russia earlier today, with the centre getting an x-ray on his thumb immediately after the game.
There was two key objectives from this match: to get a bonus point win and to keep all the key men as fit and fresh as possible ahead of the team’s Pool A decider against Japan, which is scheduled for Yokohama on Sunday. Taylor is not likely to start that match, regardless of the injury, but is a very good bet to be named on the bench, as he was for the team’s victory over Samoa last Monday.
“He’s got a thumb injury, so he’s getting an x-ray now,” said head coach Gregor Townsend at the post-match press conference. “It’s great that we can get that done right after the final whistle.
“He may require other imaging as well if the x-ray doesn’t give us the full details. But he’s the only one we’ve got concerns about. Darcy Graham rolled an ankle but didn’t complain, and he did come off – not with an injury but because he’d taken a few bumps – and I think everyone else was fine.”
Several members of the squad which won this match must now recover as best they can before fronting up against Japan which is due to be played on Sunday if Yokohama avoids the brunt of Typhoon Hagibis. The short turnaround is far from ideal but Townsend was clearly in no mood to dwell on that.
“The four-day turnaround was always in the schedule,” he said. “We have thought about selection and how we manage the load of our players. We have thought about how we best approach the next few days. It is a challenge and we know Japan have had a good rest going into the game, they have had good rests for all their games, but we’ve known that would be the case.
“We made sure that some players managed their loads, got on and came off. It is important that we recover well tomorrow then do what we can over the next few days to be in the best condition possible to play our best rugby on Sunday.
“I think all aspects of our game have to be spot on to beat Japan,” he added. “They are a very good side. We have to make best use of our possession – whether by exploiting space, by passing or by putting pressure on through kicks – and doi all we can in defence and set-piece to force errors. I think the team did that really well tonight.”
All in all, this match was a pretty satisfying exercise for the Scotland squad, and Townsend was particularly happy that his team had prevented the opposition from scoring a single point for the second match in a row.
“Credit to the players for that, to keep going hard in defence,” he said. “But, also, credit to Matt Taylor, the defence coach. I’d also like to highlight Danny Wilson. In the last two games our forwards have delivered in a number of areas, especially around the set-piece.
“Russia had an excellent scrum and maul and are very physical, but I thought our scrum was excellent. Straight away we put them under pressure and our maul got better. We forced mistakes at their line-out so that was good to see.
“It was a tough game. The score-line doesn’t reflect that but the pressure we put on the Russian defence to open up spaces was huge from our players. The first action lasted four minutes and 50 seconds, I think, which you don’t often see at the beginning of games. That shows you the ambition that Russia came with. That stressed our defence, but it also created some turnovers for us, and we exploited them more the longer the game went on.
“You look at getting the bonus point first of all. If we hadn’t got that then Sunday would have been even more difficult. Getting a big score keeps things interesting for the Ireland versus Samoa game [on the basis that qualification for the quarter-finals from Pool A could come down to points difference], but also good for the confidence of the players in knowing that it is two games where we haven’t conceded a point.