Updated: Jun 22, 2020
Scotland could not have wished for a worse start to their world cup campaign. Despite all the promise and hype the players hardly fired a shot and from the wreckage of Yokohama the whole squad now must wipe the slate clean and start afresh. Here are 5 areas that need addressed.
Don’t try and score miracle tries off 1st phase play.
Scotland’s obsession with trying to play champagne rugby every time they get the ball especially off 1st phase is not working. Teams know what is coming and Ireland’s ability to snuff out Scotland’s strike runners worked a treat. Time and time again Scotland got caught deep behind the gain line. When Scotland do it get it right, they can cut open any defence but you need to have some purchase in the game to effect that style of attack.
Hold onto the ball
At times yesterday, especially in the second half it was crying out for Scotland to retain possession. There is much work to be done but the coaches will be drilling their players this week to hold onto the ball. A week today Scotland play Samoa in Kobe and the islanders present a huge physical challenge. They love the big tackles as we saw when Fiji took on Australia and last night when Tonga played England.
Many of Scotland’s woes emanated from poorly executed passes. I thought Finn Russell didn’t get into any rhythm and the pull-back passes to his second line runners was used too often. This was partly down to Ireland’s line speed because that put Scotland under pressure but in the heat of the game it is sometimes hard to work out what is going on.
This is where the coaching staff must take responsibility by either getting messages onto the pitch or by the Captain and leadership groups changing the tactics. Cast your mind back to opening game of the 6 Nations against Wales last season.
Scotland tried to attack once again from the first whistle. Wales released pressure by kicking long and putting the onus on Scotland to attack with ball in hand. Mistake after mistake followed and but when Gareth Davie’s intercepted Ali Price’s pass and ran 70 metres to score it was time to tighten the game plan.
Peter Horne also had his pass intercepted against France last month at Murrayfield in the opening minutes by Damian Penaud. Sound familiar? It’s happening too often and has to stop.
Improve the kicking game
Scotland’s kicking game has to be more accurate. Although Laidlaw did not get the same quality ball as his opposite number Connor Murray, Murray’s kicking was superb. Russell also had a mixed game with boot to ball but there was one lovely bit of play in the first half when first he kicked wide to Maitland’s wing and with possession regained, he struck a diagonal touch finder deep into Irish territory. Hogg also had a few good kicks but when you consider that Ireland gained more from their kicking game, Scotland once again need more accuracy.
I spoke briefly with Jonny Gray and Ryan Wilson after the match and they were absolutely gutted and forlorn. It will take a couple of days to get over the disappointment but Scotland are not a bad team as a result of this performance.
Teamship is about togetherness and unity. It’s about the unwritten bond of teammates understanding what needs to done to turn things around and with that, comes responsibility.
I have offered my opinion on 4 areas for improvement. The pressure is on Scotland to take up that mantle and focus on their next game. There will be changes to the team. Blade Thomson will come in at No8 and if Jamie Ritchie is fit he will replace Hamish Watson. Poor Watson - his World Cup looks to be over.
In the backs Townsend might be tempted to start with Price and bring on Laidlaw from the bench. Darcy Graham may get the nod over Seymour but whatever team takes the pitch against Samoa I do expect a much-improved performance. Put it this way, it can’t get much worse!