Scotland hit a commendably high tackle count in their loss to New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup match at Murrayfield yesterday. They made 197 tackles and missed just 22, a success rate of more than 90%.
The figures were commented on by George Graham, the Scotland forwards’ coach, as one example of the benefits that could be drawn from the match even in a 40-0 defeat.
“We knew it was going to be a big ask. But we were gutsy in defence,” he remarked before quoting the tackle figures.
“We’re obviously disappointed to have lost. There were areas where we didn’t compete as we had hope, particularly in the scrum,” he added. “But the lessons learned will be invaluable. We can now move on.”
Scotland, in fact, moved on today by air, flying back to St Etienne for the crunch match against Italy on Saturday. The winners will progress along with New Zealand from Pool C to the tournament quarter-finals.
Graham highlighted one positive outcome from yesterday’s match in that none of the 22 Scots who played reported injury. “We’ve come out unscathed. We can now pick from 30 players,” he reported in looking ahead to Saturday’s game.
One of yesterdays 22, Andrew Henderson, was particularly pleased to have come through nearly 70 minutes of hard, intense rugby against the All Blacks before he was replaced. It was his first game of the tournament as he had been unavailable for the wins against Portugal and Romania after a leg injury in the warm-up match against South Africa at Murrayfield four weeks ago.
“I was delighted to be available for selection,” he said of his return to action yesterday. “It was obviously going to be a tough game. But the leg was fine.” Fit for Saturdays game against Italy? “100%” was his summary in his appreciation of the Scotland medical team.