SCOTLAND coach Vern Cotter was last night anxiously awaiting a medical bulletin on two of his key players after stand-off Finn Russell and lock Grant Gilchrist were both forced out of the team’s 39-16 World Cup victory over the American Eagles.
Russell lasted until the hour mark before limping off with what looked like a twisted ankle.
Neither player showed face at the post-match press conference, where Cotter was left to field questions on his twin injury worries.
“We’ll have to wait 24 hours before we get anything on Finn and Grant,” replied the coach when quizzed. “Both of those players have knocks and bumps. Grant, we’re not sure yet. It might be an adductor injury, we’re not sure. You have to wait 24 hours. I’m sorry, it’s never very accurate right now.”
The Scots had to bounce back from a seven-point deficit at half-time before running out comprehensive winners after crossing the line five times in the second 40. If nothing else, they continued to prove Japan coach Eddie Jones’ pre-match jibe about Scotland being a first-half team to be totally false.
After their opening two World Cup matches the Scots have the maximum ten points. Even if their hardest games against South Africa and Samoa are still ahead of them, Cotter’s players couldn’t have done more than they have to date.
“If you’d give me 12, I’d take them,” Cotter joked. “We’re very happy to get the win and the bonus point. It was a game that was difficult to construct, it was a physical team in front of us. We weren’t particularly accurate in the first 40.
“Scoring early in the second half got us back on track. We managed to build through a reasonably difficult day of rugby with a win. Hats off to the guys who worked hard after a four day turnaround. Again, we’ll be having a look at how we come out of this because, in six days’ time, we have another game.”
The game swung Scotland’s way immediately after the half-time break, even though Cotter was forced to field his first-choice front row for the entire second half because his back-up props had struggled in the opening 40.
Tim Visser grabbed the Scots’ first try less than two minutes after the restart and another two followed that one in double-quick time, so what exactly had Cotter said at half-time? “Calm, assertive,” was Dutchman Visser’s somewhat coy description of his coach’s half-time team talk.
When Cotter was asked the same question he claimed a “senior moment”. “I can’t remember,” replied the Kiwi.
South Africa have injury worries of their own ahead of the clash with Scotland in Newcastle on Saturday, and Cotter’s side certainly won’t have to face Jean de Villiers after the Springboks captain dramatically announced his retirement last night.
De Villiers, the fourth most capped player in the history of South African Test rugby with 109 appearances, fractured his jaw in their 46-6 weekend win over Samoa and yesterday said: “When I got injured and I left the field, I knew that I had played my last Test for South Africa.”