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Scots working at Rugby World Cup on habit of slow starts

September 23, 2019 GMT
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Scotland's player gather after the Rugby World Cup Pool A game at International Stadium between Ireland and Scotland in Yokohama, Japan, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
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Scotland's player gather after the Rugby World Cup Pool A game at International Stadium between Ireland and Scotland in Yokohama, Japan, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Captain Stuart McInally promised Scotland will start better in the rest of its Rugby World Cup games after Ireland was the latest to embarrass them early.

How will they start better? McInally is still working on it.

On Sunday, Scotland was in Ireland’s dust within six minutes of their tournament opener, and trailed by a game-over 19-3 after 27 minutes. Ireland went on to win 27-3 in Yokohama.

Conceding early is an old habit of Scotland’s, but it seems to have only worsened. In nine games this year, the Scots have conceded tries within the first 15 minutes.

Ireland, France, Wales, and England all struck early in the Six Nations — England even managed three tries in the first 12 minutes. France did it twice more in the World Cup warmups last month.

“We are aware we are starting games poorly,” McInally said on Monday. “It is being addressed, to make sure we are the ones applying pressure.

“If you start a game well, it is a massive boost for you. They started well yesterday and they were always in the ascendancy. I don’t have the answer for you today why we don’t start well, and how we are going to start better. But we are addressing it and we will have a plan in place going into the rest of these games to make sure we start better.”

Assistant coach Danny Wilson said it was also on the staff to resolve the issue.

“We as a coaching team need to find a way of consistently producing the kind of quality rugby we need to produce to win games, and if we’re being brutally honest about it, we’ve got to eradicate some of the errors we make and the pressure we heap on ourselves.

“We need these big test matches against top opposition to be tight right at the end of the game, and perhaps too often we’ve ended up too many points behind to do that. We’ve got to chance our arm as opposed to staying in the arm wrestle.”

McInally said they thought they prepared well for the pool match, and didn’t expect not to fire a shot.

“At the moment, it is tough. We invested a lot of time into that Ireland game; that goes for everyone involved in the group. Then to perform so poorly is really disheartening,” he said.

“Everyone is gutted, but the tournament was never going to be won and lost yesterday.”

He added criticism of them was justified, though it was not as harsh as their own thoughts.

“Based on the way we played yesterday, I don’t think we are not due any criticism. It’s a professional sport. We are expected to play well and we didn’t play well,” McInally said.

“We criticize ourselves really heavily as well, and that criticism comes from within, from what the coaches say about our performances and what we demand from each other. We are hard on each other, and we are desperate to do well in this tournament.”

Scotland next face Samoa next Monday in Kobe, followed by Russia and Japan.

Scotland has reached one semifinal and six quarterfinals in eight World Cups.

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