‘Scotland showed their true colours,’ says Gregor Townsend

Head coach believes that his team can march towards win-or-bust Japan clash with confidence after comprehensive win over Samoa

Chris Harris
Chris Harris approaches a dejected Samoan after Scotland's comprehensive victory in Kobe. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
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SCOTLAND head coach Gregor Townsend has hailed his team’s 34-0 victory over Samoa earlier today – which has re-ignited their World Cup campaign – as a “true reflection” of the players’ ability after they failed to deliver in their World Cup opener against Ireland eight days ago.

The side have found themselves in the centre of a storm of criticism this last week, but they got the show back on the road in Kobe with a dominant performance against a side which they have struggled to put away in the recent past.

“That was a true reflection of who we are and what we are capable of and what playing for Scotland means to the players,” said Townend. “That was a tough challenge to face, knowing that if we underperformed we were out of the World Cup. To see the effort and togetherness was excellent.”

“We missed the beginning of the game [last week] and I take responsibility for not preparing the team well enough to start well against Ireland,” he added. “But that didn’t make us a bad team. Tonight, was great to see them get rewards for their effort.”

The bonus point Scotland secured with a penalty try in the 76th minute shifted the balance of Pool A back in their favour. Assuming the next round of matches go according to form, it will now come down to a straight shoot-out between Townsend’s team and hosts Japan in the final pool match on 13th October.

“The goal was to win the game and we believed with the pressure we built that opportunities would come in the second half,” said Townsend, after watching his team dominate throughout but struggle to get that all-important fourth try. “One [opportunity] should have been taken by us when we were a yard away from the line – I think the ball was kicked out of Gordy’s [Gordon Reid’s] hands so to me it was play-on. It was misfortune there but you have to play the full 80 to get the bonus point.

“We are glad we got it. To win and play better was the target and anything extra would be an exceptional performance, and it was [an exceptional performance], especially in the first half.”

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No points conceded

Scotland’s defence was a major area of concern after the Ireland set-back, with Matt Taylor (as defence coach) the inevitable target of criticism, so Townsend was delighted for his long-time friend and collaborator that the opposition were prevented from scoring a single point in this match, which is the first time that has happened  in his time as international coach (the last time Scotland managed a shut-out was against Italy at the end of the 2017 Six Nations).

“That’s a real credit to the players and to Matt Taylor, our defence coach, who does a fantastic job,” said Townsend. “He puts systems in place, and he motivates players to defend. Tonight, they defended with passion. They got off the line and put big hits on big men and did it time and time again.

“Samoa are a dangerous team and caused us some problems at the end. But the effort at the last maul was outstanding.

“We are still in the tournament and the bonus point gives us an opportunity to go to our next game and get maximum points again,” he added. “If we do that, it will be a game against Japan to go into the quarter finals.

“Japan and Ireland are still favourites to get out the pool. We have to win our next two games and get at least one bonus, potentially two. We will see what happens at the weekend as Japan have a good rest into their Samoa game.

“We have a quick turnaround [after the Russia game] when we play Japan. We are looking at the next 10 to 11 days as preparation for both Russia and Japan. We need to get maximum points against Russia but also beat Japan.”

That final match against the host nation is going to be huge but Townsend insisted that his team will embrace the challenge.

“I suppose if you are a glass half full person you say it’s a really exciting challenge and one you can’t wait to take on, and if half-empty it is scary,” he said.

“We look at it optimistically. The atmosphere at Ireland versus Japan was outstanding. We know what the atmosphere will be like in Yokohama with 70,000 fans behind their team, but there will be a few Scots there, too. The bigger the challenge, the more it brings out in our team. But we will need to make sure we deliver a performance against Russia.”

#RWC2019: Scotland smash Samoa to ignite World Cup campaign

About David Barnes 3912 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.