RWC23: Scotland v Tonga: ‘Everyone has a plan until they are punched in the face’ – Sam Skinner

Second-row says squad believe they can go all the way in this tournament despite opening weekend loss

Sam Skinner says Scotland will come off the ropes swinging against Tonga this weekend. Image: © Craig Watson -
Sam Skinner says Scotland will come off the ropes swinging against Tonga this weekend. Image: © Craig Watson -

SAM SKINNER is desperate for his first taste of World Cup action against Tonga on Sunday, four years after he was initially set to debut on rugby’s biggest stage. The back-five forward was a near certainty to make the Scotland squad for the 2019 tournament until he was ruled out by a hamstring injury suffered in a warm-up match against France at Murrayfield less than two weeks before they flew out to Japan.

And the 28-year-old has promised that the team are ready to bounce back from their opening weekend loss to South Africa in a game they must win if they are to stay in the hunt for qualification for the knock-out stages of this tournament.

“It felt like we were fighting against a heavyweight boxer, we were a bit lighter weight and they [South Africa] just stuck their weight on us and put their game plan into action,” conceded Skinner, who was a frustrated spectator at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseilles after not being selected in the match-day 23 for that match. “We had a game-plan that was extremely strong and we were as well prepared as I have ever seen us for a game but we just couldn’t quite get it going. We fought extremely hard and given our time again we would prepare exactly the same, we would just try to be more accurate.

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“Everyone has a plan until they are punched in the face. We did have a plan, it was good and we stuck to it – we just didn’t quite get to actually throw our shots as much as we would have liked to.

“I would say you can train for it and we did, but you can’t do live contact in training so that’s a difference. Once they get through and catch you a couple of times and they slow the breakdown up like they did, that’s the challenge. We are also playing in these warm conditions where the ball is a bit greasy. You have seen lots of scrums and knock-one in games which is going to suit that style of defence.

“You have to credit South Africa’s ability to use their strengths and to force us to not be able to implement ours.”

While the nature of the loss was disappointing, Skinner stressed that nothing has changed in terms of the team’s aspirations at this World Cup, starting with a statement win on Sunday.

“We want to stamp our moment on this World Cup and say: We are here. There was a lot of great confidence, chat and belief going into this World Cup and that is still there. South Africa lost their first game at the last World Cup [and went on to win the tournament], New Zealand lost their first one here and nobody is ruling them out, so we’re doing every single thing we possibly can to put our best performance in against Tonga.

“We want to win this World Cup as well – like all teams that’s our ambition. I’ve got myself to the starting block, now it’s time to take part in the race.

“When you play a team like Tonga, they have incredible individual athletes and footwork. They can run around you and run through you. They have a lot of strength in their squad and you have to be extremely accurate and physical.

“We didn’t see anything in their first game [a 59-15 loss to Ireland last Saturday] we didn’t already know but we have the utmost respect for Tonga and we are expecting an extremely physical battle.

“Missing out on the last World Cup was a huge motivation for me to get here in the first place but now I’m here, and after sitting in the stands watching South Africa, I want to play for my country and contribute to this World Cup.”

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About David Barnes 3816 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.