World Cup: The heat is on but Scotland are ready to roar

The last time these two sides met at a World Cup it was an October Saturday
in Newcastle, so about as close to Scottish conditions as you could get outside Scotland.

Tomorrow night at the closed-roof Kobe Misaki Stadium will be a different story as Gregor Townsend’s side face sauna-like conditions for their make-or-break Pool A clash with Samoa.

“Yeah it’s pretty hot,” said skipper Stuart McInally after leading the squad in their last training hit-out at the venue yesterday. “The fact it’s an indoor stadium keeps the heat and the moisture in.

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“We didn’t do too much running around in the team run just to save the legs and we were definitely sweating.

“It’s just another challenge. The pitch and the conditions are the same for both teams. We just can’t wait to get out there.

“It’s something we’ve been aware of and it’s not something that’s 
surprised us.

“Training has been fine. We’ve been working in these hot conditions for three weeks now so we’re all used to it.

“It does make it slightly harder but it’s the same for both teams. I don’t think it’s going to be a massive issue.”

The last time McInally faced the media was last Monday shortly after arriving in Kobe following the hugely disappointing opener against Ireland in Yokohama.

The 29-year-old Edinburgh hooker seemed still in a state of shock and 
visibly upset then but was back on chipper form yesterday.

“It was definitely a tough couple of days straight after the Ireland game. You invest a lot in one game and to come up as short as we did was 
disappointing,” he said.

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“Such is the nature of the tournament you have to get back on the horse. We’ve worked hard and made sure we learned our lesson from the Ireland game.

“We turned to Samoa very quickly
because that is the only thing that matters now. We’ve got a big challenge against a tough Samoan team but we’re in a much better place now than we were a few days out after the game.”

Scotland face a physical contest all over the pitch today, with the backs sure to be taking their share of the collisions, but much will rest on a loose-forward trio who may be short on caps – 23 between them – but high on potential for dynamism and carries that can return fire at the big Pacific islanders. Samoa field a more experienced back row in the shape of Chris Vui of Bristol, captain Jack Lam, who was just released by Bristol at the end of the season, and TJ Iaone of London Irish. Forwards coach Danny Wilson agreed that it was going to be a big evening for blindside Jamie Ritchie, openside Magnus Bradbury and No 8
Blade Thomson.

“The guys are hopefully going to bring a real attacking presence and carry,” said the assistant coach. “Magnus is a big powerful man who is renowned for his carrying game, while Blade for his ability to beat people, especially in the wider channels.

“So I think they’ll add a real attacking presence for us, especially for this opposition, and I think that’s the important point. We do select and create gameplans based on the team we’re playing. Defensively I think both guys are really physical, which we’ll need. They’re pretty good over ball, and will hopefully allow us to slow down an opposition who, as 
we know, like to play a very fast and physical game.”

As an enthralling tournament unfolds today is the time for Scotland, currently with no tries and no points, to join the party, and the skipper is confident they will.

“I’m not sure why we turn in performances that are below par sometimes,” he said. “It’s not something we enjoy doing but one thing I like about the squad is we tend to get a reaction and we demand it of ourselves after a poor performance because we know what we’re capable of.

“When we fall below that standard it really hurts us, like it did last week. So we spoke about having a reaction this week in training and obviously tomorrow.”

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Townsend referred to things not clicking in the warm-up last week and, while in a literal sense, it won’t take much to warm up the muscles in the Misaki Stadium sweat box, McInally knows psychologically there must be no repeat of last weekend’s early slackness.

“We’ll be looking to start well, of course,” said the captain. “Samoa will be dangerous for more than five 
minutes though, we know with the quality players they have up front and in their backline that they can cause us problems for the whole 80 minutes if we’re not switched on.

“We’ll be looking to start well and be physical against a team like Samoa who have that threat, make sure we’re able to match that, it will certainly 
be in the forefront of our minds when we take the pitch.”

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