SCOTLAND forwards coach Danny Wilson says he is a long-time admirer Russia supremo Lyn Jones so he is not in the slightest bit surprised that the team which only made it into this World Cup after Portugal, Belgium and Spain were thrown out of the competition for fielding ineligible players during the qualifying process have been so competitive in the games they have played so far.
Japan, Samoa and Ireland have all secured comfortable wins in the end against Russia but it wasn’t until the final quarter in each of those three matches that the bonus-point for the victorious team was secured.
Scotland now face the supposed minnows on Wednesday night in a game they must win to keep on track to qualify for the quarter-finals of the World Cup as one of the top two teams in Pool A, preferably with a bonus point and ideally without any of their front-line players having to work too hard or endure any heavy hits, given that a do-or-die clash against Japan lies in wait just four days later.
Tennent’s Premiership: Round Five preview – runners, riders and verdict
National One: Melrose and Highland fight to protect unbeaten records
National Two: Glasgow Accies expect boost from return of senior players
“With Shaun Connor there as well (as Russian assistant coach), their identity is probably what you expect from a team coached by Lyn,” said Wilson. “They are a very good defensive team and their contact area defence is a real handful.
“Their kicking game is pretty astute as well, so they are probably the areas we need to be fully aware of when we play them next Wednesday. They have grown throughout the tournament so far and done well. They are a threat and we have got to be right on top of our game to deal with that.
“Lyn is a very clever coach in how he goes about his game plan, so there is lots for us to be aware of.” Wilson added. “At times they frustrated Ireland [on Thursday] and I think they turned them over eight times – and five of those turnovers were around the breakdown – so we know what is coming. We have to get the imprint on the game we want.
“Their tight-head (Kirill Gotovstev) has scrummaged really well. The seven (Tagir Gadzhiev) has been outstanding. We are certainly aware of what’s coming and we need to prepare for this fixture in the right way.”
Wilson got to know Jones during their days coaching in Wales, and it is clear there is a deep respect there.
“We did a lot of our coach education at the same time in terms of badges, so I spent a fair bit of time with him through that and at conferences,” recalled Wilson. “Obviously our teams (when Wilson was head coach at Cardiff Blues) have played against each other over the years, when Lyn was at the Ospreys and the Dragons.
“He’s great fun, he’s got a lot of good stories. He is one of the brains of the game, in my opinion. From the early days of my coaching career in Wales, he was extremely well respected in terms of his rugby brain, and still is. He has got a lot to offer. I am sure he will have something up his sleeve that we will have to deal with.”
Wilson added that he was impressed by Russia’s gutsy performance against Russia, but added that it has not caused a rethink of approach to the game amongst the Scotland coaching team.
“We have got a good squad with some real quality in it and it is important we manage that well over that short period between games,” said Wilson. “We watched the game last night and we have looked at Russia in a fair bit of detail. We are not seeing past that game at the moment.
“Obviously in the back of your mind you do need to prepare for a short turnaround to play Japan, but we won’t be taking this first challenge lightly. We know we need to get maximum points out of this game, which will be a challenge in itself, and one we relish.
“They will obviously want to get a victory in their last game, and I know they will be very well prepared for that. You have seen a pretty passionate, physical bunch. They have frustrated teams at time in this tournament and we will expect exactly the same.
“It will be no different to our approach against Samoa. It is a case of finding ways of wearing them down and staying in the arm-wrestle until we get ourselves into a position where we can finish the game off.”
South Africa v Scotland: Philip Doyle makes three changes to winning side