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Scotland: There was anger but time now to get over Ireland

September 25, 2019
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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)

KOBE, Japan (AP) — It’s taken Scotland a few days to get over Ireland. There was a team meeting and some hard truths were spelled out. It was uncomfortable but necessary, the players said. There was anger and frustration.

Scotland has a new setting to refocus in after the 27-3 drubbing in Yokohama to open their Rugby World Cup. The Scots are in a high-rise hotel in Kobe with a view over the port city’s attractive skyline and a chance to look up again.

“We’re going to have to put Ireland behind us,” Scotland flyhalf Finn Russell said on Wednesday.

The squad’s been stewing on the loss to their Six Nations rival for three days.

Scotland was completely outplayed, lacking aggression and energy in the words of coach Gregor Townsend in the immediate aftermath. They were never in it. Desperate disappointment inside the squad has been exacerbated by furious criticism from fans and commentators back home.

Scotland’s recent history of poor starts in games isn’t over. The Scots conceded three tries and were down 19-3 after 25 minutes.

“I don’t think there was one boy who came off the pitch who had the best game, myself included,” Russell said. “We had a long time to get ready for this game ... we just never performed.”

There’s been plenty of anger and frustration, Russell said, but it’s time to put that away. It’s not going to help against Samoa on Monday night in Kobe. The Samoans will thrive if the Scots lose their heads and the game turns fast and furious.

“If we try and play (Samoa) on frustration and anger, it’s not going to happen. We need to stick to our structure and stick to what we do rather than thinking we’re going to beat them with anger and frustration. That’s not how you win international test matches.”

The Ireland loss cost Scotland more than just pride. Back-rower Hamish Watson and scrumhalf Ali Price are out for the rest of the tournament with injury. Flanker Watson’s physical presence will especially be missed against Samoa.

Samoa could be a couple of men down in Kobe, too. Some of the Samoan aggression was a little over the top in the win over Russia. Center Rey Lee-Lo and hooker Motu Matu’u have been cited for dangerous high tackles and could be banned.

While Russell said Scotland had to take the loss against Ireland “on the chin” and bounce back, teammate Jamie Ritchie has done just that, although his blow was more on his cheek.

Ritchie is back with the squad and available for the Samoa game after recovering from a broken cheekbone in a warmup with Georgia. The flanker had surgery and a metal plate inserted in his cheek, or so he was told by doctors.

“I think so. I was asleep for it,” Ritchie said.

Scotland was also asleep for Ireland. Time to wake up.

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