Rugby World Cup: Ali Price on crutches as Gregor Townsend sweats over Scotland scrum-half's fitness
Scrum-half Ali Price is Scotland’s latest injury doubt in what has been a demoralising start to their Rugby World Cup experience in Japan.
After Sunday’s woeful 27-3 crushing by Ireland in Yokohama head coach Gregor Townsend said he believed flanker Hamish Watson was the only injury concern.
The news everybody was expecting, that Watson was out of the rest of the tournament following the knee injury which saw him stretchered from the field, was confirmed just after noon Japanese time as the squad’s bullet train sped them south to Kobe for Monday’s crunch second Pool A game against Samoa.
The sight of Price also on crutches as the players headed to the Shinkansen platform at Tokyo’s Shinagawa Station came as a surprise.
“He is going through the assessment,” said assistant coach Danny Wilson on arrival in Kobe. “We got back to the hotel late Sunday night and then we’ve been travelling to Kobe, but over that time the assessment process has been sorted so we should know by the end of play have a bit more information.
“At the moment, it’s a minor issue around the foot and ankle area, but we’ll have to wait and see when the full assessment has been done.
“It’s so early after the game. What we’re hoping is it’s just a case of bruising and that will be that. But with all of these there is a process they need to go through with the medics, step by step, I know you hear that so many times but it’s the truth, and once we get the relevant information it will be passed on.”
Asked if Price was now a doubt for the clash with Samoa or the tournament as a whole, Wilson said: “I honestly don’t know if it will even be one game. Because if you think we’ve actually got a longer turnaround between last night and Monday, which does allow more time medically.
“If it was our Russia into Japan four-day turnaround we might be having a different conversation but we have a fair bit of time.
“Once we get the relevant results then the process kicks in in terms of recovery and he starts training again, but I couldn’t tell you without risking being inaccurate.”
Forwards coach Wilson admitted the loss of in-form flanker Watson was a huge and untimely setback.
“It is obviously a major blow, losing him from the squad. I can’t tell you a huge amount about the severity yet [of the knee injury] until he’s had the full assessment. It would be wrong for me to get that inaccurate, so we’ll wait for the full results on that.
“But it is a blow. He’s a very good player, who had played very well for Scotland. But, likewise, I’m pretty confident that Magnus [Bradbury] can come in and bring a ball-carrying presence that we maybe didn’t have, and we showed we didn’t have last night. So there is an addition and a strength that has been added there.”
Wilson has had much to chew over after watching his pack decimated by the marauding Irish and was questioned on whether it was time to rein in the fast and open Scottish gameplan of the past couple of years and look to build control and stability before cutting loose.
“In all honesty you’re probably speaking to the wrong person on that,” said the former Cardiff Blues boss. “We sit round the room and collectively talk about the game.
“We [the coaching team] are all very much believers in playing a style of rugby that our players are passionate about. It has proven to be successful at times and also at times proven not to be.
“ As you heard from Stuart [Hogg, post-match] there are a very passionate group of players and staff that believe in that style of rugby and believe when it is executed effectively we can go up against anybody.
“But the backhand of that is when perhaps it’s not as accurate, or when we make too many errors, or when we don’t get the speed of ball that we’ve talked about, we then need to be able to do things slightly differently.”
Captain Stuart McInally, meanwhile, still can’t fathom why Scotland started Sunday’s match with what head coach Gregor Townsend described as a lack of “energy, aggression and accuracy”.
“We trained really hard and bring loads of energy to our training,” said the skipper. “I look back at the week to see if there is anything we could’ve done differently. I don’t believe we could have. All we could do is perform and we didn’t perform. That’s why it is frustrating. We’ll sit down as leaders and discuss ways of ways of doing it better. Ireland are a quality side and they started with loads of energy and we struggled.”
McInally, who has been reconfirmed as Edinburgh captain for next season, said he was still stunned by how badly things went wrong at the weekend.
“Sometimes if you don’t prepare well and training has not gone as well and you get beat you look back at that and say we didn’t train well.
“We trained really well and prepared as best we could. I mentioned it earlier in the week, and reiterated it midweek that no stone was left unturned. We knew all our roles so we could just focus on being energetic and being physical. That is what was disappointing. That was probably lacking.”