Scotland players took themselves out of World Cup contention, says Matt Taylor

Some Scotland players may well have played their way out of World Cup consideration following the weekend’s 32-3 mauling by France in Nice, confirmed assistant coach Matt Taylor yesterday.

Scotland defence coach Matt Taylor says some players have played their way out of contention. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS/SRU

No names, no pack drill. But an admission from the management group that the dismal display on the French Riviera might well have been a fin to their dreams of making the plane to Japan.

“There will be guys, some of them, who won’t get another opportunity. That is the decision that is made, that ‘you’ve had your go, and that’s it’,” said the defence coach yesterday, clearly still smarting from a 5-0 try count rout.

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“We all had one-on-one meetings yesterday [Monday] and I think the message to the boys is you may only get one chance to show how good you are, to be on the plane to Japan,” added Taylor.

“If you don’t take that chance, you either don’t go or the pecking order might change. It was hard to assess, some guys fronted up, some guys didn’t.”

The sobering experience of that opening World Cup warm-up Test may have produced some head-scratching and rethinking but Taylor insisted that head coach Gregor Townsend would be generally sticking to his Japan lead-up strategy, with a changed team set to run out at BT Murrayfield for Saturday’s return clash with the French.

“Gregor has had a few changes in places, we’ve kind of had a theory or strategy about what we wanted to do, we wanted to give guys an opportunity, had combinations we wanted to have a look at,” said Taylor.

“Also later on in the warm-up games, we probably want to consolidate the team we want to play against Ireland [the first Pool A match in Yokohama on 22 September].

“Probably the last game [home to Georgia after the final 31-man squad has been named] will be more of an indication of who is going to be playing against Ireland.”

Former Borders and Scotland A flanker Taylor pulled no punches about the unacceptability of the overall defensive display but did express some sympathy for a back division who were left firefighting rather than guns blazing as the Scottish pack were pummelled.

“Listen it is difficult to gauge at times when you don’t have that dominance or there’s not much periods of dominance in the game,” he said.

“Some of those backs operated in an environment where they weren’t on the front foot and were doing their defending on the back foot.

“I suppose you can assess people’s desire or want, their ability to stay in the fight or contest. Certainly some of the guys in the team showed that, some of them didn’t.”

As to how he will be looking to ensure a big improvement this weekend, Taylor added: “You want to get up and hit people, knock them backwards. The French are one of the biggest teams in the world. They love their offloads, you give them what they want on the front foot and they are going to take that all day. We didn’t take that away from them.

“You always look at your performance at a number of levels. Some of it is looking at your strategy, some of it is looking at how you motivate or psychologically where you are trying to get players, first of all you have to have the attitude and the workrate, then your systems and strategies become a lot stronger.

“I think it is about adjusting, but not changing dramatically, we just have to do a lot of things better.”

It was another flop on the road for the Scots, which is a continuing theme which shows no sign of abating heading into the World Cup.

“If you take the Australia and Argentina games away from home, we did well there,” responded Taylor.

“What we talked about today was ensuring that we front up against France at the weekend. We’ve got a great opportunity to put in a performance that our supporters are proud of. We also briefly spoke about Georgia and Japan. The 
Georgia game over there is going to be extremely tough. It is going to be hot, it is going to be the first time that a Tier One nation goes there so they are going to be pumped up – it is the type of game that we as Scotland should be saying: ‘Let’s puff our chest out and dominate this opposition.’

“So, we get through this [France] game this week, then we’ve got a chance to front up against a good opposition in Georgia away, and the next kind of ‘away’ game is against Japan in the sense that there will be a lot of their supporters there.

“With the other nations [in the pool] you would say it is an ‘away’ game for both of them.”