Scotland skipper Greig Laidlaw has issued a rallying call to his Dark Blues troops after demanding the final push which clinches a Rugby World Cup quarter-final slot.
Victory over Samoa in Newcastle tomorrow will send Vern Cotter’s side into the knockout rounds for the first time since 2007.
The Scots kicked off their campaign with victories over Japan and the United States but were bulldozed by a rampant South Africa outfit last weekend. as they coughed up their first bite at the qualification cherry.
However, Laidlaw insists his colleagues are ready to complete the job at the second attempt when they run out at St James’ Park to face the Pacific Islanders, whose hopes of escaping Pool B are already over.
He said: “We are extremely motivated. We players are desperate to win this match as we want to be in the World Cup quarter-finals. We’ve worked very hard to get to where we are at the moment.
“Now we need one more push this weekend.
“We need to put the fact we are regarded as favourites to one side and just look at Samoa. I still think they are a dangerous team.
“Maybe the fact they have nothing to play for will make them slightly loose this weekend but if we defend properly we feel there will be opportunities for us to attack.
“They have dangerous individuals and we will be on guard to make sure we cover up. We’ll give respect to Samoa but I feel if we get our part right we’ll put ourselves in the best position to win the game.”
The Scots know it is likely to be win or bust. On Sunday, Eddie Jones’ vastly-improved Japan will take on an American line-up coming off the back of a 64-0 thumping by the Boks and could snatch second place from Cotter’s men if Scotland fail to see off Samoa. But Laidlaw insists his side will not be overawed by the task in hand.
“It’s different to the Six Nations because it’s now knockout rugby,” he said. “But if you look through the squad, the Glasgow boys clearly know what that’s about.
“They have been to the Pro12 play-offs a few times recently. I won the Challenge Cup with Gloucester last season and the Edinburgh boys got to the final.
“So all the little things add up within the squad. The Glasgow boys can fall back on their experiences, so can the Edinburgh boys and myself. That can only help when it comes to a game like Saturday.”
Cotter’s worst injury fears appear not to have materialised after he named Finn Russell, John Hardie, Ross Ford and Matt Scott in his starting XV.
Influential playmaker Russell has shaken off the ankle knock which kept him out of last weekend’s 34-16 loss to South Africa to be named at stand-off. Flanker Hardie, who has not featured since the opener with Japan, has recovered from a head knock, while hooker Ford and inside centre Scott suffered concussions both sustained in that Springbok defeat.
Cotter, who has made four changes to his pack, with another three in the backs, said: “We were mostly concerned with guys coming back from bumps and bruises. It was just about waiting to see who would be ready and who wouldn’t.
“After looking at the way [Scott and Ford] trained I’m positive as best I can be that they will be fine to start. We know there are always little things that put a stick in your spokes but we’re hoping they will come through okay.
“We’re playing this game like it’s a qualifying game. We know it’s going to be really tough, we don’t anticipate anything else.
“We’ve got 80 minutes to put in a very good performance. We need to perform in certain areas perhaps better than we have done but it’s a great challenge for these guys.
“All experience is important in rugby. The Glasgow boys know each other well and have been in the play-offs before. This is international rugby and it’s not particularly forgiving.
“But the guys have shared a lot of time together and a lot of things have grown and developed. The group has a strong desire to do well and qualify. I think we’ll see that will and determination come Saturday.”
Asked if the match would be the defining moment of his 15-month reign, he said: “I’m sure you can make a story out of it if you want to. But it’s not about me. It’s about us as a group enjoying this situation.”