Allan Massie

George Horne and Jamie Ritchie will hope they will be celebrating another Scotland win. Picture: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Allan Massie: Japan on a high but Scotland have cause for optimism

Journalists have often previewed matches while aware that vile weather may lead to postponements. Today is different, for the pool match between Scotland and Japan is threatened with cancellation, not postponement, the latter being, according to Alan Gilpin, World Rugby’s tournament director, “unfeasible on logistic and safety grounds”.

Rugby Union
John Barclay is congratulated by Duncan Taylor after scoring Scotland's eighth try during the victory over Russia. Picture: Adam Pretty/Getty

Allan Massie: Scotland’s two clean sheets impressive but Japan are a different beast

I t is already an odd World Cup for Scotland. We didn’t, as the old hack used to put it, “trouble the scorecard” in losing to Ireland. Now, against Samoa and Russia, we have scored 95 points and conceded none. Clean sheets are rare in rugby now; two in a row very rare. Critics have for a long time said it’s too easy to score tries against Scotland. Well, we’ll see how the defence stands up against Japan.

Australia centre Samu Kerevi, right, was controversially penalised against Wales. Picture: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

Allan Massie: Change the laws to eliminate high tackles

There have so far been two surprising results in this World Cup and one half-surprising one: Uruguay’s defeat of Fiji and Japan’s of Ireland were the surprises, the scale of Scotland’s loss to Ireland the half-surprising one. Actually, in retrospect, one might think that the Japan-Ireland result was only half-a-surprise too. Japan had, after all, beaten South Africa in 2015. Now they were playing at home and, in the last four years, they have had much more top-level experience than before. There was a fair chance they would pull off one big win. We Scots can only hope it’s only one. More on that in the future.

Opinion 1
Pecali Yato of Fiji is tackled by Australia's Reece Hodge. Picture: Getty.

Allan Massie: Citing players for dangerous tackles is a step in right direction

N o use crying over spilled milk. Most of us have probably been told that by mother, grandmother or a tough-minded aunt. Quite so: no point in tracking back and reviewing our first disastrous game in Japan. Looking coldly at where we are, we can say it’s where we feared we would be, needing to beat Samoa, Russia and Japan to qualify for the doubtful pleasure of meeting, probably, the All Blacks in the quarter-final.

Rugby Union
Ian Smith , in white, dives over thee line to score a try against South Africa on his debut for Scotland in 1969. Picture: Colorsport/Shutterstock

Allan Massie: Celebrating an age when it was a crime to congratulate a try-scorer

W ell, assuming all have come unscathed through last night’s return match with Georgia, it is passport-checking time for the happy 31, coaches, analysts and so on. Suddenly 22 September and the match against Ireland look very close. Meanwhile it is agreeable to step back in time and to remember, and reflect on, the days when rugby was a recreation for players and not a job or career.

Rugby Union 1
Scotland's Stuart Hogg, left, and Finn Russell after the 17-14 win over France. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS/SRU

Allan Massie: Gregor Townsend’s Scotland selection should maintain the winning habit

Anyone turning up or tuning in a few minutes late last Saturday and finding Scotland already 0-7 down might have been excused for muttering , “Same old Scotland, sleepy start – why do we take ten minutes to wake up?” Yet it wasn’t like that. We had actually started briskly and were looking lively, even dangerous, when Damien Penaud intercepted Peter Horne’s pass and ran half the length of the field to score. If Penaud had mistimed his move, the try might have been scored at the other end of the field.

Rory Hutchinson in action for Scotland against France in Nice. Picture. Gary Hutchison/SNS/SRU

Allan Massie: ‘We played like someone rubbing sleep from his eyes’

“We don’t do mediocre.”
This might be the confession of a Scotland player if he departed from the approved script in a TV interview. “We’re either brilliant or horrible,” he might add. “In Nice we were truly horrible.” So indeed we were, every it as horrible as in the first half-hour at Twickenham in March. That day, as we happily remember , the second half was indeed brilliant. Sadly, there was no such brilliance in the second half last week. The best that could be said is that it wasn’t as horrible as the first.

Scotland 3
Duncan Taylor is back from injury and will start for Scotland against France. Picture: Bruce White/SNS

Allan Massie: The prospect of seeing Duncan Taylor partner Huw Jones is enticing

The sight of Gareth Anscombe being helped off the field at Twickenham and out of the World Cup will have sent nervous shivers down many spines. We are all aware of the risk of serious injuries in these warm-up internationals, an apprehension scarcely alleviated by the knowledge that injuries are suffered in training too. Indeed, a mishap in training has already deprived Wales of Toby Faletau.

This tackle by Ireland's Chris Farrell on Sam Johnson of Scotland would be illegal under the proposed new law. Picture: SNS/SRU.

Allan Massie: Law change must focus on dispersal

E ven as we get ready for the World Cup and anxiously scan the news for reports of any injuries – Wales have already been deprived of Toby Faletau – the law-makers are looking to the future beyond whatever happens in Japan, and have come up with a number of law changes or revisions which will be given trials at various levels of the game.

Rugby Union 2
All Blacks captain David Kirk with the William Webb Ellis trophy in 1987. Picture: AP

Allan Massie: Scotland can go to Rugby World Cup with optimism

It is thirty-two years since the first Rugby World Cup. So I suppose you have to be fortyish to have any memory of it. It may surprise anyone younger to be told that enthusiasm for the adventure was lukewarm. Ireland and Scotland were both, predictably very dubious , England, as I recall, scarcely less so. The hesitation to commit themselves was reasonable. Anyone could see that if the tournament was a success and followed by another, it might become more difficult to keep rugby union as an amateur game. The threat was already looming: there were mutterings about the All Blacks’ hooker Andy Dalton cashing in on his reputation by advertising a tractor.

Rugby Union
Scotland assistant coach Mike Blair. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS/SRU

Allan Massie: Scotland must be roosters not feather dusters

The Rugby World Cup is creeping up on us, but the creep will soon turn into a sharp trot. Scotland play the first of their four warm-up matches against France in Nice three weeks today. Four warm-up internationals seem a bit like tempting fate to some of us, risk of serious injury rising with every game. True, of course, but injuries come in training too. The Wasps flanker Brad Shields has just been sent home from the England training-camp with a foot injury.

Rugby Union
Australia head coach Michael Cheika during a training session. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty

Allan Massie: Rugby Championship will be vital source of World Cup learning for the north

Most of us would, I hope, hate the thought of the Six Nations being regarded as preparation for a World Cup rather than as the great tournament it is, but the Southern Hemisphere’s Rugby Championship has neither the history nor the allure of the Six Nations, and there’s no doubt that all four countries – New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Argentina – see the truncated Championship which kicks off today as, principally, an opportunity for preparation and experiment. There’s more reason to regard it as such because it is of course that much nearer to the World Cup than the Six Nations was.

Alex Dunbar is joining Brive in the French Top 14. Picture: Bruce White/SNS

Allan Massie: Alex Dunbar’s Brive encounter is a flight of French fancy

It is the time of year when most of the news is about things off the field. Yesterday one learned that John Jeffrey has just been appointed chairman of the Six Nations Committee,on which he has served for a number of years, as indeed on World Rugby and the SRU itself also. JJ has come a long way into the ranks of the Great and Good since, along with his mate Finlay Calder, he was described as a “scavenger” by England’s coach, Geoff Cooke. A long way also from that night when he and England’s mighty No 8 Dean Richards indulged in some passing practice up and down North Bridge with the Calcutta Cup instead of a rugby ball. I don’t really know what the remit and powers of the chair of the Six Nations Committee may be, but I trust that JJ will greet proposals for change with a healthy Borders scepticism, offering our characteristic defence of the status quo: “it’s aye been”.

Opinion 2
Hooker Ross Ford retires as Scotland's most-capped player. Picture: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

Allan Massie: Ross Ford a ‘splendid servant to clubs, country and the game’

It is in character that Ross Ford should have announced his retirement in a dead week of the close season. One would have liked to see him take his leave after sixty or seventy minutes of an international match at a packed Murrayfield so that he could receive the grateful and admiring applause that he deserves. But he has never been a player to seek, let alone hog, the limelight .For him, a match has always been about the team, not himself.

Rugby Union
Richie Gray is not in Scotland's extended pre-world cup squad. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Allan Massie: Six Nations should heed cricket’s cautionary tale on TV rights

Our under-20 team may have been enduring a disappointing time at the Junior World Cup in Argentina but there is some good news. World Rugby’s reluctant decision to scrap their proposed re-structuring of the international game is to be welcomed, not only in Scotland and Italy, the two countries most likely, on the record over the 20 seasons of the Six Nations, to be at risk of relegation if the proposed two-tier European structure had been agreed.

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