Every game now is like a Rugby World Cup quarter-final for Scotland, says Matt Taylor
The trauma of an opening working over by Ireland in Yokohama was significantly atoned for with a vastly improved, albeit still nervy, showing in the heat and humidity of Kobe as the Scots shut-out the physical, freewheeling Pacific Islanders and, finally, got themselves the bonus point needed with a penalty try six minutes from the end.
Defence coach Taylor was swiftly looking ahead to the next Pool A challenges against Russia in Shizuoka a week tomorrow and then hosts Japan back in Yokohama four days later.
“The reality of where we are is it’s knock-out now. Every game now is like a quarter-final,” said Taylor. “We have to turn up and play Russia with the right mindset and do a good professional job. Hopefully if we do that, we set ourselves up for a really good game against Japan.
“I will be very disappointed if we don’t show the same aggression and mindset because we know if we don’t show up, or put in a performance like we need to, we are out.”
The healthy scoreline helped get the Scots back into positive territory following the 27-3 loss to the Irish and Taylor accepts that Russia could present an opportunity to pile on more but is wary about making assumptions about a side he believes will put up a fight next week.
“How we’ve talked about it is, win the game first, then worry about bonus points, and then worry about points for and against,” he said. “Every point for and against is important because it could come down to that. I certainly think if we manage to put in a good, professional performance, hopefully we get the result and depending on where you are in the last 20 minutes is where you start opening up things or not.
“I’m not going to say that we’re going to score all these points against Russia, on the day there’s the bounce of the ball, whatever. I’m hoping to say we’re a reasonably good side and if we do things right like we did against Samoa, hopefully we’ll get a good result.”
Taylor was not aware of any injury concerns from the Samoa match, beyond loosehead Allan Dell who failed a first-half head injury assessment and is now in the standard concussion protocols.
The squad are now set for a few days of semi-relaxation, staying on in Kobe until the weekend, by which time planning and preparation for Russia and Japan will be ramping up.
“The way things work these days within a couple of hours the views [from games] are put on a hub which all the coaches get, so you get the four angles pretty quickly,” explained Taylor.
“We might send someone up to watch Japan v Samoa [in Toyota on Saturday]. Looking both at Russia and Japan we’ve done a lot of work on Russia but we’ve obviously done a lot of work on Japan as well, we’ve spoken to a couple of different teams about Japan as well, hopefully that gives us a little bit of insight.
“They’re a very smart team. But we’re talking about Japan and we’ve got to get Russia done first.”
The Russians, who only qualified for the World Cup due to Romania and Spain being found guilty of eligibility breaches, lost warm-up games to Connacht and Jersey.
Taylor stressed though that the days of World Cup roadkill are long gone and, after spending an extended period in camp together, Russia have performed creditably in their opening games.
“You look at Fiji [losing to] Uruguay, we’re not going to take anyone lightly,” said Taylor. “They’re a big physical team and they’ve been in the contest for 65 minutes in both of their games. You take them lightly to your peril.
“The most important job for us is win the game early and score the points later so you do a professional job, you’re ruthless at the start of the game, you hope that some of the expenditure of energy will take it out of the other team, you get the benefit in the last 20 minutes of games.
“That’s how we’ll be taking them as well, we’ll take them seriously.”
Our Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup coverage is brought to you in association with Castle Water www.castlewater.co.uk and on Twitter @CastleWaterLtdFollow Duncan Smith at the World Cup in Japan on Twitter @Duncan_Smith