Scotland must 'do it the hard way' to qualify from group but know what is needed

Gregor Townsend at Scotland v Tonga match in 2023 Rugby World Cup Gregor Townsend's Scotland know what they have to do to reach the quarter-finals (Adam Davy/PA)

Gregor Townsend admitted Scotland will have to “do it the hard way” if they are to reach the World Cup quarter-finals but the head coach is hoping the renewed clarity of their situation in Pool B can help his team in their quest to progress.

After Ireland’s narrow victory over South Africa on Saturday and the Scots’ bonus-point 45-17 win over Tonga on Sunday, the picture has become slightly clearer for everyone in a lop-sided section containing three of the top five teams in the world rankings.

From Scotland’s perspective, they now know they will have to get a bonus-point win over Romania in Lille on Saturday and then ensure they defeat Ireland in Paris the following weekend with a bonus point or win by more than seven points to deny the Irish a losing bonus.

Townsend is pleased that his team emerged from the past weekend with five points and still with a fighting chance of qualifying.

“It keeps us on track,” he said. “The South Africa-Ireland game could have gone either way, it was a close Test match.

“But the fact South Africa picked up a bonus point means now it’s a straight shoot-out between us and Ireland.

“If South Africa pick five points up against Tonga – which they might do, they might not – that would mean they will likely get to 15 points.

“So we are competing with Ireland to get to 14 points, unless either of us pick up bonus points in our game against them.

“Ireland are already on 14 points, so we have to get to 10 points (by beating Romania on Saturday) to make sure it becomes a straight shoot-out between us and them, and if we were to win that game by more than seven points we get through to the quarter-final. It’s as straightforward as that.

“We know it’s going to be a difficult challenge against the number one team in the world. We’re going to have to do it the hard way to get out of this group but we believe in our players.”

Finn Russell admitted Ireland’s win over the Boks has made things slightly more difficult for Scotland because they will have to beat the Irish by more than seven points – as opposed to simply beating them by any score – but the stand-off does not feel it has changed things significantly for his side.

“Ideally for us South Africa would have won but we know what we need to do now,” he said. “We knew what we had to do against Tonga, and going into the Romania game we know what we need to get to have that final game against Ireland in Paris.

“I don’t think it’s changed too much for us because after (losing to) South Africa, we were always going to have to go and beat Ireland. We knew at the start this was potentially a situation we could be in.”

The Scots scored seven tries against Tonga – all from different players – but Russell feels they will have to be far more clinical going forward, particularly against the Irish.

“Seven different try-scorers is great but I think we left five or six chances out there potentially,” he said.

“It’s great we’re getting balls out wide, the backs scored a few tries, we got a driving maul try which is really pleasing as well but there were times when we got to five metres from the line and we’ve got to do a lot better there.

“It’s good the boys are scoring but I think we need to be a lot better and a lot harder on ourselves in training and in games.

“It doesn’t matter if there’s one guy that scores seven tries or seven individuals, it’s a team effort. But we need to up it. If we want to progress in this tournament we need to be a lot better than that.”

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