Scott Lawson Column: 'I cannot wait for Scotland-Ireland'

 

Like everyone else, I am really excited to see how the World Cup goes when it kicks-off on Friday.

I think from a Scottish point of view, Gregor Townsend has picked a very solid squad. As with most squad announcements, the omissions seemed to get more headlines than those who were picked.

There is no doubt there were some close calls in the back-row and centre positions especially, but I think Gregor was firm in his mind about who he wanted to take to the big event and the head coach has to have that clarity.

I am particularly pleased for three people that have made it to Japan.

Seeing Duncan Taylor back fit and playing well after a torrid time is great to see. He is a mate of mine and I have seen how hard he has worked to get himself to where he is now and he can be an important player for Scotland in this tournament.

He is an honest, hard working bloke and is a top-quality operator when he is flying.

John Barclay too has had a bad injury to come back from, but this will be his third World Cup after 2007 and 2011 and he will have a big influence in terms of being one of the leaders in the group, that old stager who can help others along the way.

When Jamie Ritchie got injured against Georgia in the final warm-up game it looked like his chances of going to Japan may have disappeared, but he had an operation and has since joined the squad which is positive news.

Living now as I do in St Andrews, I know the impact he has on young kids here having grown up in the area himself and the way he carries himself and plays his rugby is a great example to us all.

I think picking Stuart McInally as captain is the right choice because over the last couple of years he has just got better and better.

Making the transition from back-row to hooker is never easy for anyone, but he has taken it in his stride and I have seen for myself how hard he works on his throwing and other aspects of hooker play to make sure that he can be the best he can be.

Stuart is a very intelligent individual who has good mental strength and a calmness about him which helps him get his message across.

And the great thing for him is that he has other experienced leaders like Greig Laidlaw, John Barclay and Stuart Hogg around him so I think the squad are in good hands in that respect.

I cannot wait for the Scotland-Ireland match on Sunday.

It will be fascinating and I wouldn’t like to make any predictions, it is too close to call for me and I certainly don’t think it will be short on drama.

Scotland’s loss against France in Nice in the first warm-up match was a blip and the way that the team conceded points really hurt defence coach Matt Taylor.

I know just how much Matt prides himself on the way his team defends, he mentioned himself that he had learnt some lessons about pre-match preparations not being quite right for that one, but we can be sure that Scotland will be much stronger defensively against Ireland.

It is very rare that you have such a pivotal match in the group first up, so this really is ‘go’ time for Scotland they have to be on their game from minute one or Ireland can punish.

Scotland have their own exciting players in attack too, Finn Russell is growing all the time while Stuart Hogg seems to be made for the big stage and loves these sorts of occasions.

We have heard a lot about the hot conditions out there and as a former front-rower myself, I know how tough it will be for those guys in Japan.

They have to be totally focused at set piece time and not worry about the sweat running down their faces, a good 50-60 minute shift from the big men could be crucial to the outcome.

Scott Lawson is now Director of Rugby at the University of St Andrews. On Saturday their men’s and women’s teams take on the University of Edinburgh in the Scottish Varsity matches at BT Murrayfield - get your tickets here scottishvarsitymatch.com

Scott Lawson was speaking to Talking Rugby Union's Gary Heatly.

 
 
 
 
 

2019 Rugby World Cup Fixtures & Results

 

2019 Rugby World Cup Points Table