Rugby World Cup: Now defence coach Matt Taylor says Scotland keen to "smash" Samoa
Defence coach Matt Taylor’s hope that his players would “smash” Johnny Sexton like they had in the Six Nations came back to bite as the world player of the year and his world No 1-ranked Ireland swatted Scotland aside with unseemly unease.
The Australia-born former Scotland A flanker was in the mood to double down at today’s press conference in Kobe as he said they now wanted to “smash” the physical Samoans on Monday to get their teetering World Cup campaign back on track.
“It gives us lots of challenges but I'd be hoping the boys would be pretty keen to get up and smash them as we need to do that,” Taylor said of the dangers posed by the Pacific islanders.
“If we don't do that then it's going to be tough. They play with a lot of width, they are big explosive athletes and we've got to make sure we get up with our line speed and knock them over.”
After watching the Irish cut through Scotland like a hot knife through butter at times on Sunday, the defence coach was on the defensive about what had gone wrong in Yokohama before going on the front foot and issuing a rallying call for an appropriate response in Monday’s must-win match.
“We had a review last night [Tuesday]. We looked at the game and what we could have done better,” said head coach Gregor Townsend’s assistant.
“Unfortunately the things we could have done better came down to us just not executing and not performing as we should have. The key message is if we had executed like we should have we'd have been in a better position.”
Taylor admitted that the deluge of heavy criticism aimed at the performance had not been pleasant to experience.
“It's tough to hear. After the France game in Nice [a 32-3 defeat] we had a good conversation and seemed to be able to turn it around [with a 17-14 win over the same opponents at home a week later].
“We came up against the number one side in the world [on Sunday] and if you're not up to your best as a team you'll come second and that's unfortunately the way it went.
“We've got Samoa this week and we'll be looking to put those things right. We've got to be more full on than we were at the weekend and be more aggressive. We've spoken about that and we'll see the response at the weekend.”
When it was suggested that Scotland were well off their best against Ireland, Taylor responded: “Yeah. Well yeah we were.”
Why the similarity to that night in Nice? “Not sure.”
So there’s every chance it might happen again? “Well hopefully not. After that France game we had three wins on the bounce.
“But yes it’s disappointing. We can't put our finger on it. We've spoken about it. All we can do is move on and make sure the next game is right.
“Sometimes in big events teams don't perform and that's unfortunately that's the way it was.”
Asked if he thought the occasion had got to the players, Taylor said: “I’m not sure, it’s hard to say. You’d have to ask them. Certainly we thought we'd perform a lot better than we did and we didn’t. That's disappointing as we’d spent a long time preparing but it didn't come out on the park. We just need to make sure that in the next three games we do do that.
“That's what we talked about. Unfortunately the Ireland game is gone. We can't get it back and all we can do is focus on Samoa.
“We were pretty brutally honest with the review. We said that part's gone, we can't get it back. We've focused on today's training session. We've got to make the few days we’ve got to prepare for Samoa count.”
The Samoans have scored more than 30 points on the last two occasions they have played Scotland, losing 36-33 in the 2015 World Cup quarter-final and then 44-38 in the 2017 November Test series.
“It's making sure we can do everything we can to be prepared and front up on the day,” said the defence coach.
“I can understand that everybody is disappointed [with the Ireland performance]. I'm disappointed. The boys are disappointed.
“We don't go into these games not to play well. We go out to perform to the best of our abilities. We didn't do that and we're disappointed. Maybe the occasion got to us, I'm not sure. It's difficult for me to say.
“If I knew the answers I'd be able to turn it around directly and make sure it never happens again. But we'll do everything in our power to put in a performance the country can be proud of against Samoa.
“I'm sitting here. I'm frustrated. Everybody is frustrated. But we have got to move on. The Ireland game is gone. We're disappointed with it, but it's gone.
“If we dwell on that, it seeps into Samoa.
“We're going to do a good job on Samoa. I'm sitting here saying that we will – I'll be disappointed if I'm sitting here in a week's time and we don't.
“But I'm sure the boys are pretty focused on doing just that.”