Defence coach warns Scotland against Russia relapse

KOBE: Scotland’s defence coach has insisted the team cannot afford to let their standards slip against Russia after getting their bid for a Rugby World Cup quarter-final place back on track.The Scots revived their last-eight hopes with a convincing 34-0 bonus-point win over Samoa in Kobe on Monday after starting the tournament with a miserable 27-3 loss to old rivals Ireland. They now find themselves in what would appear to be a three-way fight with Ireland and Japan for one of the two places in the knockout phase on offer from a tightly-contested Pool A where Samoa may yet have a say in the issue.Scotland’s concluding group match against Japan, whose shock 19-12 win over Ireland threw the pool wide open, in Yokohama on October 13 could be a make-or-break fixture for both sides. But four days earlier, Scotland face outsiders Russia, against whom they are likely to need another bonus-point success if they are to set up a winner-takes-all clash with tournament hosts Japan.“The reality of where we are is it is knockout now,” Scotland defence coach Matt Taylor told reporters at the team hotel on Tuesday. “Every game now is like a quarter-final. 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.”The Australian added: “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.“We are back on the dance floor, we are back in the competition, and we have to make sure we do it for the next two games.”And that means more of the commitment that saw Scotland, boasting an entirely new back row in which Jamie Ritchie was outstanding, keep the physically imposing Samoans scoreless in sweltering conditions under the roof of the Kobe Misaki Stadium—the first time they had ‘nilled’ an opponent since Gregor Townsend took charge as head coach more than two years ago. “From the first line-out against Samoa we got off the line, we double-hit them and knocked them back,” said Taylor. “It is exactly what we needed to do. It is very satisfying when you are a defence coach and manage to keep an opposition scoreless.”A tight turnaround in their last two pool fixtures now presents Townsend’s backroom team with new challenges that could include fielding separate line-ups for the Russia and Japan matches.

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