Scotland coach Mike Blair calls for longer tournament and larger squads

Mike Blair says that having only a four-day break between matches poses a challenge. Picture: SNS/SRU
Mike Blair says that having only a four-day break between matches poses a challenge. Picture: SNS/SRU
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Scotland assistant coach Mike Blair has called on World Rugby to extend the length of the World Cup and increase the number of players who can travel to the tournament after claiming the current set-up leaves competing nations “vulnerable”.

The Dark Blues face a make-or-break double header with Russia and Japan only four days apart as they seek to reach the quarter-finals.”

The Scots need two wins and at least one bonus point – perhaps two depending on how they fare in their final game with the host nation on 13 October – to seal qualification to the last eight.

But Blair right, is concerned the strain of playing two crucial matches in such quick succession will leave Gregor Townsend’s squad – currently limited to 31 players – flagging after admitting some team members may be asked to put their bodies on the line in both 
clashes.

It is too late to change the rules and schedule for this year’s competition but Blair says the situation should be looked at in future.

The former Scotland scrum-half said: “I think bigger World Cup squads would certainly help. It’s a challenging position to be in.

“You leave yourselves a little bit vulnerable in some positions when you cut down to 
31 men.

“So there’s no doubt a couple more players would definitely help, as would potentially extending (the competition) an extra few days so everyone gets similar breaks in between.

“It’s unique. It’s not something that happens during the normal season. It’s another challenge we’ve got to take on and to enjoy.

“We’re looking at guys backing up. There might be guys who don’t go on the pitch 100 per cent fit and that’s something that might need to be looked at.”

Vice-captain John Barclay should be available to face Russia next Wednesday after overcoming a groin strain while prop Allan Dell is working his way through concussion protocols after coming off early during Monday’s bonus-point win over Samoa.

But Blair says Townsend’s backroom team will have to manage their numbers 
carefully. “It’s obviously a challenge,” he said. “Russia first up – that’s what that focus is going to be on – but at the same time we are aware we have that four-day turnaround straight after so how we look after the 
players, the volume of training we do, the direction in which we take training, what we focus on is going to be really 
important.

“It should be seamless for the players, we don’t want to add undue stress on to them in that period when they are going to have to recover quickly.”