'There's a lot more in this team' insists Gregor Townsend but loss to Japan 'hugely disappointing'
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend insisted the national team still has a bright future while expressing disappointment at failing to make the knock-out stages of the Rugby World Cup.
The 28-21 defeat to an inspired Japanese team sends Townsend’s squad home early - the first Scotland team to fail to get out of World Cup pool since the 2011 tournament in New Zealand.
The host nation’s astonishing speed and ruthless finishing, particularly in an astonishing spell from the start of the second quarter into the opening of the second half proved the difference in a breathless encounter at the Yokohama International Stadium.
“There’s a lot more in this team. Experiences are what make you as a group and how you react to those experiences,” said Townsend.
“It was a unique situation we were in and we always knew it was going to be a challenge given our [four-day] turnaround [from Wednesday’s 61-0 win over Russia in Shizuoka.”
The highly-anticipated Japan-Scotland game, which had been under review due to assess the effects of Super Typhoon Hagibis hammering the country on Saturday, was given the green light in the morning local time as a bright, clear day dawned in Yokohama following the storm.
Public attendance at the match was given the go-ahead too and what a crowd it was as nearly 70,000 watched the Brave Blossoms reach their first ever World Cup quarter-final to rapturous acclaim.
“We had the team and we had the ability at the start of the game to go on and win it by the necessary amount of points,” continued Townsend. “That we didn’t was hugely disappointing. We have to learn from that and we’ve got to improve as we get to our next tournament, the Six Nations.
Stand-off Finn Russell’s early try was the perfect start but Japan, who went into the game knowing they had to avoid losing by more than seven points to progress, roared back with four tries in a 24-minute period of attacking excellence.
Scotland hit back with a further two tries from WP Nel and Zander Fagerson but couldn’t maintain the surge of momentum into the final 15 minutes.
“Over the piece we are disappointed that we were not able to win by eight points or more,” added the coach. “We started very well in attack and defence, but we didn’t see much of the ball for the rest of the first half. Partly due to the errors we made, but also due to what Japan were doing when they had the ball.
“Two tries from our perspective were soft – both from our possess, one from a 22 restart and another one the ball was ripped out [from centre Chris Harris].
“That happened either side of half time and that made it it very difficult for the result we were looking for. The players ut a huge effort into the next ten to 15 minutes and with 58 minutes gone we were only seven points behind. But we did not do enough to get the win.
“We came here with high aspirations and getting out of pool stage was stage one of those. We have worked really hard throughout the last four months and throughout the tournament to go further than we did tonight. It is obviously very disappointing not to make it out of the pool.”
Townsend began his post-match press conference by passing on behalf the thoughts of Scottish rugby to the people of Japan for the devastation caused by the typhoon.
The coach refused to blame a lost pre-match day confined to the squad hotel as the storm raged for the failure.
“The players acted very professionally,” he said. “We always believed the game was going to go ahead. We acted and behaved that way in our preparations. Yesterday was compromised and we had a quick turnaround. But we knew this week was going to be challenge.
“I look at how we started the game and that was an indication of where the players were in terms of their energy. After that our errors gave Japan the ball and they made the most of that. They are on great form just now. The sign of a quality team is taking opportunities and they did that.”