Scotland v Samoa: "A bit of niggle" in training after a "tough" few days for Scotland, reveals Greig Laidlaw
He may not be captain in this World Cup but as ‘father of the squad’ the man who will turn 34 the day before Scotland face hosts Japan an a potentially pivotal final Pool A clash back in Yokohama has been playing a key role in assisting current skipper Stuart McInally in lifting the squad following the deflation of the sound beating from Ireland.
After a second training hit out in Kobe, where the Scots will face Samoa on Monday, which contained “a bit of niggle”, the dark clouds appeared to have lifted a tad today as the players look to end the wallowing and head positively into that second crucial pool match.
“I'm not going to dress it up any other way – it's been hard,” revealed Laidlaw.
“We've worked hard to this point and are extremely disappointed with how we played against Ireland but we've got to pick ourselves up and go again.
“We've just had the number one ranked team in the world up first. Were we pleased with our performance? No, far from it. But now every game is a knock-out and we need to get it right against Samoa on Monday night.”
The plan for that will now be formed on the training pitch but, initially, some steam has been let off.
“The mood has been pretty tough as you can imagine,” continued the Clermont-Auvergne veteran, who will win his 75th cap on Monday at the Kobe Misaki Stadium. “We feel it more than anybody. It’s been tough but it’s happened. There was a bit of niggle in training today which sometimes happens, but we had it before the Ireland game as well.
“We have to make sure we bring that into the game as well and get this World Cup up and running.”
To do so they will have to subdue a powerful and passionate team of Pacific islanders who have caused Scotland plenty of problems in the past.
“Samoa are a good team but they are a team we can score points against if we get our attack right. It’s about doing the simple things very well,” said Laidlaw.
“I think they’re very strong individually in terms of attack with their ability to break tackles and offload and any time you play these Pacific Island nations they are very good at that part of the game.
“Defensively we need to front up and really present a connected line right across the field.”
Laidlaw famously scored the late try which edged Scotland to a 36-33 win over Samoa at St James’ Park in Newcastle four years ago to secure what would be an epic quarter-final with Australia.
“It was four years ago now. We scored more points than them and ultimately that’s all that matters,” said the former Edinburgh and Gloucester player.
“I remember our forwards getting on top near the end of the game. We’ll need our pack to really out their imprint on the game for us. That’s part of their charge.”
Samoa are facing their own disciplinary issues at the moment, with citing hearings expected soon for centre Ray Lee-Lo and hooker Motu Matu’u. It is a weakness to the islanders’ game but Laidlaw is stressing that Scotland must ensure their discipline holds.
“In these knock-out games it’s vitally important that we keep our discipline no matter what’s happening round about us,” he said.
“That's discipline in our defence, in not giving penalties, in our attack shape. It's right across the field for 80 minutes.”
With the tournament-ending injuries to Hamish Watson and Ali Price, there will clearly be at least two changes to the matchday squad on Monday but assistant backs coach Mike Blair was not giving away how sweeping, or not, the broom may be applied in the wake of the Yokahama collapse.
“I don't think we feel external pressure on these things, we have always looked as these two games as very different games,” he said. “Ireland pay a much tighter game and have different opportunities from Samoa.
“Samoa, some of the stats today about how much they play off 10, the play a very wide game so out wider our defence is going to have to be very switched onto that side of things.
“With the performance against Ireland, that has made us look at the best team to put out, the best 23 we can out out but also there were some things in our heads about different personnel between Ireland and Samoa.”
So does that mean the team was going to change anyway, whatever happened against the Irish at the weekend.
“Not necessarily,” said Blair. “You look at things long term and then when they approach you change what your potential plans are. We have got a good idea of what we are going to be doing on Monday.”