Rugby World Cup: We were in a dark place, we'll take it like men and we'll put it right, says Grant Gilchrist
Lock Grant Gilchrist revealed that the Scotland squad had been in a “dark place” since the humiliating loss to Ireland in their World Cup opener but has vowed the players will take it “like men” and put things right against Samoa in Kobe on Monday.
The Edinburgh forward confirmed that last night’s review meeting had not been one for the faint hearted but had been a valuable experience in focusing minds on what exactly needs to be done to salvage the campaign with three straight wins against Samoa, Russia and Japan to make the quarter-finals.
“The review meeting was a big part of that,” he explained. “Let’s get it all out on the table. Let’s fire the bullets and take the bullets like men.
“We are professional rugby players but we try not to but we have the odd bad game. It’s a fact of life. It’s about taking it on the chin and working out how you can be better collectively and individually.
“We close the book on the emotion behind.....and you are in a dark place for a couple of days. But you have to get your head up and realise this World Cup is alive for us. There is a huge opportunity on Monday for us to right our wrongs. If we right our wrongs on Monday it roles on and can build on that and set out what we have set out to achieve in this World Cup.”
Gilchrist, who along with skipper Stuart McInally, slipped off tackles as Irish lock Iain Henderson burst through to lay the platform for yet another bodyblow early try lost, conceded that players know there places are in jeopardy after such a dismal showing.
“Definitely. There is no doubt that when you play as badly as that that everyone’s heads on the block and so it should be,” he said.
“I am not going to sit here and say anybody deserves their place in the team when they are involved in something like that.
“It will be up to [head coach] Gregor [Townsend] who he selects for the next game and the boys who played are under no illusions that we are not in a great position.”
Gilchrist is a close friend of McInally, with both 29-year-olds sharing the same birthdate. The captain faced the media on Monday and was clearly still upset by what had unfolded in Yokohama, but his clubmate said the hooker is now fuelled by a desire to put things right.
“Stuart’s a strong character. We all took a beating on Sunday night,” continued Gilchrist. “We’d put a lot of work in behind the scenes for the last four or five months building towards the game and there’s no surprise that in the 48 hours afterwards you are going to be in a dark place because everybody is rightly annoyed and a bit pissed off with how we played.
“But nobody is more annoyed and pissed off than the guys who have been grafting for the last four months.
“[The match review] was uncomfortable – so it should be. It was uncomfortable as it should have been. No-one likes to go through what was at times not anywhere near where we need to be both individually and collectively. It is not nice to sit through but that’s how you move on.”
Gilchrist said the players had been stung by the criticism from back home.
“We understand why everybody else is annoyed, but we’re more annoyed than anyone,” he said.
“People are questioning whether we care and whether we are aggressive enough, and that’s hurtful so we need to go out and really show that.
“I think we look internally first. What we set out to achieve we didn’t do – that’s the worst thing. We made a commitment to each other to do X, Y and Z – and, to me, that’s the biggest thing … what you commit to your team-mates.
“External to that, we’ve got some motivating factors, but there is enough for us to be concentrating on in-house in what we can do better.”
Townsend expressed disappointment about the lack of “energy and aggression” from his team on Sunday but Gilchrist takes a nuanced view on that.
“It’s not all just aggression,” he said. “There’s a lot of technical things that need to be right to become aggressive. It’s not just about getting angry and going out and hitting things – that would be rubbish and people would say you’ve lost discipline.
“Quite often you miss tackles when guys try to be aggressive – because they are not technically good.
“We’re not going to go out there an chuck the book away and say we’re just going to be aggressive – but the persona of aggression comes from being really accurate with what you do and having a bit of edge to you, and that’s what we are going to try to bring on Monday.”