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From Tom English
After Scotland finished their call-to-arms press conference on Saturday in Takanawa at Tokyo, it appeared that 100 days had passed since they first met up to get ready for the World Cup.
One hundred times of planning to the opener against Ireland and training meetings and sessions, of previews and reviews, of course traveling and games.
Sunday was day 101, that was kind of suitable given its connotations because George Orwell (an anagram of his own name being Ell Gregor Woe) composed about individuals being tormented in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. You and you have Space 101 and Rugby 101; Orwell’s dystopian future and Townsend present, respectively.
It’s hard to understand how many times management and Scotland’s players talked during those first 100 times, however, it had been in the dozens. Fighting talk, too. They threw their shoulders back and gave it big about how good they can be.
Ahead of the Ireland game, they talked about how hard they had been working on defence, just how much they were going to goal Johnny Sexton, how a herd of rampaging wildebeest would not make them take a backward step from the Irish, how they had been saving their own best stuff for the World Cup.
Obviously the Scots have to back themselves. They could don the black cap and pass a World Cup death sentence independently, but they had to deliver a performance and they never came close. If they came on in the first location, their lights went out early.
Scotland are sold. They win a few games and everybody becomes giddy, such as us in the press, who are starved of joy when reporting on this group which each and every success at Murrayfield is considered as a turning point.
It just becomes a turning point when they actually flip, maybe not by providing just a single win in five games in the most recent Six Nations before entering 21, when they approach the turn. In their six championship games, they have one victory.
Following a few minutes in Yokohama, they conceded the first attempt. By the moment the barnstorming Iain Henderson ran free of Stuart McInally and Grant Gilchrist, you simply knew that the score was coming.
Since these minutes are nearly always come from by the score, you’d have bet the house on it. The defence of scotland was slow to catch round the corner at James Ryan and the next ruck moved over. Easy.
After 14 minutes, they conceded a tries off. Anyone who watches this Scotland team could have gone on an Ireland score once again started to move forward. Some groups have belligerence and the company to maintain outside teams in these vital times. Scotland fold if their defence is stressed. Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt understands that better than anyone. He performed it.
A third person came down the end of the area off a Scotland error after 26 minutes. A scrum, some hard-running out of CJ Stander, much more slackness out of Scotland and yet another soft touch attempt, this one from Tadhg Furlong. Not half an hour played and the game was completed. One hundred days of prep – because of this?
A view is out there – shared who Scotland have faced in times – that when it comes to the collective talents of the group, a number of these have a bit too far to say to themselves. About needing to play with the brand of rugby in the world, listen incredulously to the conversation from several Scotland players and trainers – a headline replicated after the beating of Sunday.
Scotland and Ireland are cousins however there’s no relation. This year has been hard for all these Irish gamers, their kind diminished, their assurance ruined, louder and their critics louder. No quantity of silverware out of their 2018 gets protected them .
They’re hard-bitten men. Relentless. Tough physically and emotionally. Power of personality – and quality of trainer and player – seems to be acquiring them. They are a force which could have drunk in the conversation of Scotland and quietly fed off it.
Just the hopelessly optimistic (or delusional) Scotland enthusiast would have predicted a victory on Sunday. There was little evidence to suggest it was probable. Because Schmidt entered the spectacle ireland had won five of their six meetings. They scored 21 tries in these games and won by an average of 14 points.
Yes, their 2019 form had been bad up until their recent triumph over Wales in Dublin, but that win suggested they got back to what they were. It was a portent of doom because of the Scots.
Ireland were hot favorites and there could have been shame in Scotland dropping to them. They talked the talk and fell in a heap. The thing is not that Scotland lost, it is that Scotland never turned .
Townsend’s admission in the wake that they lacked aggression and energy was a shocker although we had heard, and found , the same thing before. And lately. And more than once.
Last month, when passive at a 32-3 defeat against France at Nice, Matt Taylor, the Scotland defence trainer, talked about the lack of urgency of the team.
“On reflection, maybe we should have poked and prodded and fired the boys up more than we all did,” he said.
They want prodding to get up themselves for a Test match and poking?
“We simply left it to the players to get themselves in the right frame of mind,” he added. “With it being a warm-up game in a wonderful place like Nice, we just assumed that amount of intensity was going to be there also it wasn’t.”
It was not there in Yokohama to get a World Cup game, it was not there at Nice, it was not there at the opening 30 minutes in Twickenham when England scored four attempts, it was not there against Wales and Ireland at Edinburgh or from France at Paris.
In their previous 11 competitive games, Scotland have surrendered 12 tries in the opening 14 minutes. In precisely the exact same period, two have been conceded by Ireland. The dearth of electricity and aggression is a weakness which Townsend has not fixed.
Where they play Samoa, on Monday they go for Kobe. Shorn with their players poached by other countries and of finance, the Pacific Islanders continue to be subjected to the treatment on the planet game. They have dropped to the USA, Fiji and Australia in their past few matches, but there were signs against the Wallabies that they’re starting to put something together again to this World Cup. Four years ago, the wits scared out of Scotland at Newcastle.
Nothing which Samoa, or even Japan, will have observed on Sunday will give some concern to them. The pair of them stay underdogs but they will smack on a target on the backs of all these gamers that are Scotland and go afterwards with intent. A venomous intent.
The countries have met on Townsend’s watch. It had been in the fall of 2017, a 44-38 win in Murrayfield. Scotland scored six attempts daily. Samoa scored five. Scotland must win this game, but they’ll be battered in the procedure. This week will be grim. They’re in a hole. A one.
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