RWC23: Scotland v Georgia reaction: Townsend focussed on positives

Head coach expects to have Darcy Graham fit again by Thursday

Scotland head to World Cup with winning momentum after beating Georgia. Image: © Craig Watson -
Scotland head to World Cup with winning momentum after beating Georgia. Image: © Craig Watson -

GREGOR TOWNSEND said he expects to have Darcy Graham back in training on Thursday of this week, and reported no new injury concerns after his team’s comfortable – in the end – win over Georgia earlier this evening [Saturday].

The winger was a late call-off to the match on Friday afternoon with a quad injury and was replaced on the right touchline by Kyle Steyn, but Townsend stressed that there is no danger of the Hawick man missing Scotland’s World Cup opener against South Africa in Marseilles in a fortnight’s time [Sunday 10th September].

“We’re training this week Tuesday to Thursday, and then the guys are going to have Friday and Saturday off, so we’re aiming for Thursday with Darcy,” said the coach. “If he’s not able to train Thursday, it will be the following Monday in France.

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“I’m really pleased that Kyle got through today’s game because he actually was one that went off injured on Tuesday – along with Darcy – but recovered well enough to train Thursday,” Townsend added. “He got a whack on his knee, too, but it looks like that’s fine.

“There’s a couple of what you might call normal Test match niggles [from the Georgia game], nothing more serious than that, which is great.

“I’m sure it wasn’t in the front of players’ minds, but they will have seen last night and a couple of injuries in that New Zealand versus South Africa game, and a couple of players in the England squad getting injured last week, so it is a tricky fixture.

“Jamie Ritchie cracked his cheekbone the last time we played Georgia, so to get through that with the second half performance and no injuries is a massive positive.”

Townsend added that Scotland’s disappointing first half half performance proved to be a blessing disguise.

“Ideally, we want to be six points up, 10 points up, 20 points up [instead of six points down at half-time], but the final outcome is a credit to what the players did in the second half and how they kept their focus,” her reasoned.

“We had plenty chances in the first half and we were playing at width and pace but a couple of times we rushed the final pass or didn’t get to the breakdown quickly enough.

“But I believe it was probably better for us going six points down because it meant we had to improve certain areas, our fitness would have to come through and it did, and our bench, who must have guessed that they would have an early introduction, did really well too.

“Georgia are a very good team. They’ve beaten Wales and Italy recently, and they are outstanding in that contact area, whether it is an attack or competing for ball, so we have to give them credit too – and at least we saw that improvement in the second half which was pleasing.”

“They didn’t score a try so that was a pleasing aspect too – but we’re still working for that performance we can be happy with over the 80 minutes. It is never going to be the complete performance, because opposition are going to have their moments. We know also that playing against South Africa is a different game.”

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Asked if he is certain in his own head yet on what his selection will be for that World Cup opener against South Africa, Townsend replied: “It’s probably not set in stone. We’ll have a good look at that game again in depth. I’m more clear on the 15 than the 23, and I know there are players who have put their hand today to come into the mix, whether in the 15 or more likely the bench.

“That’s been a really positive outcome of these four games – our bench has played really well, and we’ve finished every game stronger than our opposition. That’s a credit to the fitness of the squad and what they’ve done during the campaign, but also the eight guys making a difference in the last 20 minutes of games and they certainly did that today.

“Working with the group for a longer period [this summer] and seeing how well they’re training and seeing the collaboration and connection has been really enjoyable, but that’s obviously not what we’re here for,” he concluded. “We’re here for the players playing close to their potential and winning for Scotland, and we got very close to having four wins and close to playing some rugby which excites our supporters and is a real threat to any team we are up against – but we know we still have improvements to make.

“Some players were playing their second game of the season today, others are playing their third game, so we know we’ll get better with more minutes on the field and we’ll be better again for today’s experience.”

RWC23: Scotland v Georgia: second half surge sees hosts home

About David Barnes 3908 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.