Scotland v Samoa: "We've done the numbers but first job is to win" says Stuart McInally
Captain Stuart McInally says Scotland “have done the numbers” after Japan sensationally blew their Rugby World Cup Pool A wide open by stunning Irealnd 19-12 on Saturday but insists the focus can’t stray beyond beating Samoa in Kobe tomorrow.
Scotland have played only one game, that 27-3 beating by Ireland in Yokohama last weekend, but the Brave Blossoms’ incredible victory over the world No 2 side, which will take them above now ninth-placed Scotland when the new rankings come out tomorrow, means the calculators are out already.
There are an endless set of permutations but closing in on the most realistic scenarios, shell-shocked Ireland still remain in pole position and bonus-point wins over Samoa and Russia would probably see them top the group with 16 points.
The most Scotland can get to now is 15 points with three bonus-point wins. Japan could go into the final pool match against the Scots in Yokohama on 14 if they beat Samoa with four tries. In that case a simple win would do Scotland, unless Japan get a losing bonus point by finishing within seven, by virtue of head-to-head.
Gregor Townsend’s men could still be eliminated if they beat Japan with a bonus point but the hosts lose by seven or less and score four tries in the process. That is just what happened four years ago against tomorrow’s opponents Samoa at Newcastle’s St James’ Park.
Of course, the flipside is that there is also now an unlikely but not impossible path to Scotland actually topping the group in the four-way battle with the Irish, Japanese and Samoans.
It’s mind-frazzling stuff and after yesterday’s team run at the retractable-roofed Kove Misaki Stadium, McInally was trying to keep things simple.
“We obviously watched the Japan game and we've done the numbers,” said the skipper.
“We know the implications and what it could mean for us. But we just have to go out and win the game [against Samoa] first and foremost.
“In my experience if you start chasing anything else before the game starts then you can get into a bit of trouble.
“So we'll go out, try to win the game and if we're in a position in the last 20 minutes to go for that bonus point then of course we're aware of what we have to do.”
For all that it wasn’t an ideal result for Scotland, McInally acknowledged the momentousness of the events in Shizuoka and what it means for the tournament as a whole.
“I was very impressed by the Japanese side. I thought they played exceptionally well and deserved to win,” said the Edinburgh hooker.
“They played very fast, they were very direct, and they looked after the ball well. I feel they defended very well as well, and when you play like they did I'm not surprised that they won.
“It was obviously a disappointing result for Scotland but it was great to see what it did for Japan, and to see how much it means to the country as a whole as obviously they've put a lot into the World Cup.
“But I feel that nothing changes for us. The task is still the same. It may be a little harder in terms of needing bonus points now, but ultimately we're just going to need to win all of our games to get out of the pool.
“That wouldn't have changed whether we'd beaten Ireland or not, we still need to win all our games because you don't know what else is going to happen. Nothing changes for us as a group.”
It was put to assistant coach Danny Wilson that, for all the team not getting ahead of themselves in terms of needing four tries is a sensible approach, the fact is that an extra point from tomorrow’s game is not really a ‘bonus’ but more of a necessity and was asked if things would be tweaked, for example kicking penalties to the corners rather than the posts earlier than might have been the case.
“There's obviously three more games to play and there's a lot more permutations in terms of what will, or won't be needed,” said the forwards boss. “There is obviously a lot of assumptions now of what the results are going to be and what that will lead to, but we're fully aware that first and foremost if us winning the game and then putting ourselves in a position to be able to go after a bonus point. “That doesn't really change. We know that will be a hard task, so our mindset will be about performing both sides of the ball to give us an opportunity to win the game first and foremost, and then that will hopefully lead on to opportunities for a bonus point.”
Wilson reported a clean bill of health after a final session at the venue for tomorrow’s match.
“No worries as far as I know coming out of that,” he said. “Everyone is good, raring to go. As the boys have alluded to we’re in a place where our whole focus is physically and mentally on this next performance and hopefully we’ll bounce back well and give ourselves something to build on.”