Scotland’s bid to make amends at the Rugby World Cup got a lot easier after Samoa was struck down by personnel problems.
The Samoans lost at least three players to injuries and suspensions in the wake of the Russia game to slow any momentum they might have gained from their 34-9 win. No 8 Afaesetiti Amosa left Japan, his tournament over because of a ruptured right knee ligament, and centre Rey Lee-Lo and hooker Motu Matu’u each received three-match bans for dangerous tackles to rule them out of the rest of the group stage.
Matu’u was effectively already out of the Scotland game with a concussion, so his ban will extend to the quarterfinals, should Samoa make it. While Samoan spirits have been dampened by those injury and disciplinary issues, Scotland’s morale was nearly crushed by Ireland.
The Scots produced the most disappointing performance by a Tier One nation at the tournament so far when they were drubbed 27-3 by their Six Nations rivals in Yokohama. Ireland’s forwards bullied a meek Scotland to set up the convincing win.
It led to three days of soul-searching in the Scottish camp and the added pressure of a stinging reaction by fans and media back home. Scotland’s players must snap out of it because there’s no time to stew on Ireland with the challenges ahead: Samoa, Russia and then host Japan in their final Pool A game, which could well decide who goes through to the quarter-finals. Ireland must now be forgotten.
“The aftermath wasn’t very nice,” Scotland flanker John Barclay said. “The first couple of days were pretty crap. You analyse it, over-analyse it and go over it and over it again. It’s something we don’t take lightly.
“We’re not going to sit in our hotel rooms and cry for a week. We can’t do that. So, we’ve been out exploring. We’re here at a World Cup, it’s a great opportunity, and we’ve got another opportunity on Monday against Samoa.”
They should brace, also, for a typically bruising challenge from Samoa, which went a little over the top against Russia. Lee-Lo and Matu’u were both yellow-carded within two minutes of each other for dangerous high tackles on Russia captain Vasily Artemyev, who managed to get up after both.
Scotland: 15. Stuart Hogg, 14. Darcy Graham, 13. Chris Harris, 12. Sam Johnson, 11. Sean Maitland, 10. Finn Russell, 9. Greig Laidlaw, 1. Allan Dell, 2. Stuart McInally ©, 3. WP Nel, 4. Grant Gilcrhist, 5. Jonny Gray, 6. Magnus Bradbury, 7. Jamie Ritchie, 8. Blade Thomson
Replacements: 16. Fraser Brown, 17. Gordon Reid, 18. Zander Fagerson, 19. Scott Cummings, 20. Ryan Wilson, 21. George Horne, 22. Adam Hastings, 23. Duncan Taylor
Samoa: 15. Tim Nanai-Williams, 14. Belgium Tuatagaloa, 13. Alapati Leuia, 12. Henry Taefu, 11. Ed Fidow, 10. Tusi Pisi, 9. Melan Matavao, 1. Logovi’i Mulipola 2. Ray Niuia, 3. Michael Alaalatoa, 4. Filo Paulo, 5. Kane Le’aupepe, 6. Chris Vui, 7. TJ Ioane, 8. Jack Lam ©
Replacements: 16. Seilala Lam, 17. Paul Alo-Emile, 18. Jordan Lay, 19. Piula Faasalele, 20. Josh Tyrell, 21. Pele Cowley, 22. Ulupano Seuteni, 23. Kieron Fonotia