'Russia a very hard team to break down...we can't panic and need to be patient' says Scotland prop Zander Fagerson

Japan’s controversial late bonus-point try against Samoa on Saturday wasn’t ideal in terms of Scotland’s hopes of continuing this World Cup campaign beyond next weekend but there is another way of looking at it.

Zander Fagerson, left, has been impressed by the Russian scrum. Picture: SRU/SNS
Zander Fagerson, left, has been impressed by the Russian scrum. Picture: SRU/SNS

Head coach Gregor Townsend has a squad which, despite a pre-tournament injury to Sam Skinner and the blows of seeing Hamish Watson and Ali Price fly home after the opening 27-3 loss to Ireland, is at full strength.

If that squad is not good enough to put a team out that can deal with Russia, take a bonus point and beat them well, then do what is required against Japan, they would deserve to be on an early plane home as there would be little chance of them troubling the All Blacks in the quarter-finals.

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Just before the squad left Kobe after a near two-week stay to head back east to Shizuoka, where they will face the Russians on Wednesday, prop Zander Fagerson was expressing confidence that what is shaping up as a tense week ahead can be negotiated.

“The squad we have and the players we have, on our day we can beat any team in the world,” insisted the 23-year-old Glasgow tighthead.

“It doesn't matter about confidence, it only matters about getting the job done. Against Ireland, we didn't get the job done. We’re not taking this [Russia] game lightly in any way at all, we are well prepared, the boys are looking sharp in training and the team that is selected I’m sure will go out and give the best performance that they can.”

Townsend will name his team at 5.30pm local time on Monday (9.30amBST) and Fagerson, who didn’t feature against Ireland but replaced WP Nel in the 34-0 win over Samoa, is hoping to get a start.

Russia have been game, if limited, participants in the competition so far with a physical set of forwards and a scrum which higher-ranked teams have found a tough battle.

Tighthead Kirill Gotovtsev has been gaining rave reviews but Fagerson has been keeping tabs on the man he may be directly up against.

“The loosehead is more impressive, [Valery] Morozov, who plays at Sale. He’s very strong, very aggressive. They have been scrummaging really well, one of the best scrums in our pool, so it is going to be a big challenge up front.

“I have 100 per cent faith in our forward pack. When we get it right, we are a very good scrummaging and a very good mauling team, we just need to get our shape right, get together and make sure we do our drills. It doesn't matter what I say here, we have to put it on the pitch on Wednesday.”

Russia have been ground down rather than blown away in all three of their pool games so far, with Ireland having to wait until the last quarter before securing the bonus point.

“You can’t go into any game thinking ‘we can rock up and get a bonus point win’,” said Fagerson.

“We need to get it to progress to the quarter-finals but it will have to be an 80-minute performance, it’s not going to just happen in the first half. Look at Russia, every game they’ve played they’ve been there or thereabouts at half-time. They are a very hard team to break down, 90 per cent completion in the tackle. We can’t panic and need to be patient, clinical and, when we have the opportunities, take them.”

With Simon Berghan the other tighthead in the squad along with Nel there is going to have to be involvement in both remaining pool games for someone in that highly specialist position.

“I’ve done a few junior World Cups and know the four-day turnaround quite well,” said Fagerson. “Of course [senior] international rugby is a lot more physical than the Under-20s, but most teams have had one of these games, it’s part and parcel of the World Cup. Recovery is key, getting in the pool, keep stretching and being as professional as you can about it.

“If called upon to play both games I will make sure I am in the right frame of mind and the right shape physically.”

After the long stay in Kobe, Fagerson was looking forward to a fresh change of scene, although he was full of praise for Japan’s sixth-biggest city.

“Kobe has been awesome I really have enjoyed going about the place,” he said. “I think I’ve eaten about a whole cow of Kobe beef...no I'm joking. I tried the Kobe beef once and that was it, the bank balance couldn't take any more!

“We stopped off in Nagasaki [for the holding camp], then in Tokyo [ahead of the Ireland game in nearby Yokohama] and then here.

“Shizuoka, I’ve heard, is really nice as well. It is great we have got to see all of Japan and I am looking forward to a change.”

• Our Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup coverage is brought to you in association with Castle Water www.castlewater.co.uk