DAVID BARNES in KOBE
SCOTLAND assistant coach Matt Taylor says there are no new injury concerns in the camp following the news earlier this week that Hamish Watson and Ali Price have been invalided out of this World Cup campaign. The team had their first training session this morning since Sunday’s devastating defeat to Ireland, and a number of players did not take part – including full-back Stuart Hogg – but all should be fit and available for Monday’s must-win match against Samoa.
“There’s are couple of guys who are still a bit sore from the game, but I’d expect everyone to be back at training tomorrow,” said Taylor.
That’s the good news. And Scotland really needed some good news. The challenge now is to get this World Cup campaign back on track, and Taylor has insisted that he is confident that there is still enough belief in the squad to do that.
“We had a review last night – we looked at the game and what we could have done better – unfortunately the things we could have done better came down to us just not executing and not performing as we should have. The key message is if we had executed like we should have we’d have been in a better position,” he said.
“We came up against the number one side in the world and if you’re not up to your best as a team you’ll come second and that’s unfortunately the way it went.
“We’ve got Samoa this week and we’ll be looking to put those things right. We’ve got to be more full-on than we were at the weekend and be more aggressive. We’ve spoken about that and we’ll see the response at the weekend.
“After the France game in Nice [when Scotland were blown away in their first World Cup warm-up match] we had a good conversation and seemed to be able to turn it around,” he added.
Once is unfortunate, twice is careless
Taylor had been pretty outspoken after that loss in Nice, stating that the teams’ attitude and aggression levels had not been of the standard expected and require – inevitably, he was pressed at today’s press conference on how the same problems could have happened again.
“Not sure,” was his curt reply – prompting an obvious question about whether that means it could happen again.
“Well hopefully not – after that France game we had three wins on the bounce,” he reasoned. “But, yeah, it’s disappointing. We can’t put our finger on it. We’ve spoken about it. All we can do is move on and make sure the next game is right. Sometimes in big events teams don’t perform and unfortunately that’s the way it was.
Taylor was then asked if it was possible that the occasion could have got to the team. “I’m not sure, it’s hard to say, you’d have to ask them,” he replied. “Certainly, we thought we’d perform a lot better than we did and we didn’t. That’s disappointing as we’d spent a long time preparing but it didn’t come out on the park.
“We just need to make sure that in the next three games we do do that [perform]. That’s what we talked about. The Ireland game is gone. We can’t get it back and all we can do is focus on Samoa.
“If we dwell on that [Ireland game], it seeps into Samoa. We’re going to do a good job on Samoa. I’m sitting here saying that we will – I’ll be disappointed if I’m sitting here in a week’s time and we don’t. But I’m sure the boys are pretty focused on doing just that.
“We were brutally honest with the review,” he stressed. “We said that part’s gone, we can’t get it back. We’ve focused on today’s training session. We’ve got to make the few days we’ve got to prepare for Samoa count.
“I can understand that everybody is disappointed. I’m disappointed. The boys are disappointed. We don’t go into those game not to prepare well. We go out to perform to the best of our abilities.
“If I knew the answers, I’d be able to turn it around directly and make sure it never happens again. But we’ll do everything in our power to put in a performance the country can be proud of against Samoa.”
Meanwhile, Samoa centre Rey Lee-Lo and hooker Motu Matu’u have been cited for acts of foul play contrary to Law 9.13 (dangerous high tackle) during their team’s World Cup opener against Russia last [Tuesday] night.
The players will attend hearings before an independent Judicial Committee in Tokyo on a date to be agreed with the players and their representatives.
Samoa winger Ed Fidow has received a Citing Commissioner Warning for an act of foul play contrary to Law 9.12 (punching or striking) in the same match. This will remain on his disciplinary record in the event that he accumulates any combination of three warnings or yellow cards during the tournament.