DAVID BARNES in TOKYO
THERE is no fresh injury concerns in the Scotland squad ahead of Sunday’s World Cup opener against Ireland in Yokohama, meaning that Jamie Ritchie is the only squad member likely to miss the match, according to forwards coach Danny Wilson.
The Edinburgh flanker suffered a facial blow during Scotland’s final warm-up match against France and has had a metal plate inserted, which has effectively ruled him out of the Ireland game – especially as he has only just started training with the squad again – but Wilson says the 23-year-old is hopeful of being fit to play against Samoa eight days later.
“Jamie will train with us today, so he is making progress,” said the coach. “He is a big question mark for this weekend, obviously, but hopefully he will get through training and will be available for the next game.
“The rest [of the squad availability] is pretty straight-forward and the boys have trained very well.”
Wilson added that he doesn’t expect Ritchie will need to play in a ‘phantom of the opera’ type mask which has been deployed by rugby players and footballers with facial injuries in the past. “Obviously, our medical staff will tick all the boxes that need ticked before he is available for selection, but I don’t think he will have to play in any mask,” he confirmed.
Despite the encouraging prognosis for Ritchie, his fellow Edinburgh back-rower Magnus Bradbury, who flew out with the squad as back-up, has not yet returned home – although he is not officially part of the training party.
“There are obviously rules and regulations [in terms of who is in and who is out of the squad] that we will be sticking to and then a decision will be made off the back of this game,” explained Wilson. “He will return to Edinburgh at the relevant time depending on how the game goes.”
Ireland have faced their own injury problems this week, with centre Robbie Henshaw already ruled out of Sunday’s match with a hamstring complaint, while Keith Earls and Rob Kearney are major doubts with knee and calf complaints respectively.
“As a coaching and playing group I don’t think we get too concerned about the speculation,” said Wilson. “Once you get confirmation of the team you are facing you then look in more detail. You second guess things and over-think it if you don’t.
“We are concentrating very much on ourselves, our game-plan and our standards in training.
“I think we are fortunate that we have a lot of guys who have a huge amount of experience of playing the different types of opposition we will face,” he continued.
“What we do well, and do more and more, is make sure we get opinions and views from those guys. There is great experience in the room, which I’ve learnt a huge amount from in the time I’ve been there.
“We’ve looked at all the recent games they have played. They are No 1 in the world, a good side and well coached. They have had their ups and downs, but like us in recent games they have tried things, experimented with things. You don’t necessarily reveal your full game-plan going into your first game. All teams have done that.
“They have had some huge wins and maybe the odd game they wouldn’t be happy with, but they are full of quality players and quality coaches, so we know that we are going against a very good team.”