Kinghorn and Johnson eye Russian Bears
Scotland backs Blair Kinghorn and Sam Johnson reflect on the national team's world cup campaign so far - three days from their third round fixture against Russia in Hamamatsu.
Both players have played a vital role in Scotland's RWC2019 campaign so far - Johnson started both Tests against Ireland and Samoa, while Kinghorn - who's yet to feature - has been a regular in the 'scout' team that replicates the forthcoming opposition in training to help equip those selected.
Concussion symptoms early in the campaign certainly played their part in Kinghorn's inability to take contact - be that in training or games - but with a clean bill of health, he's understandably keen to cross the paint and do it for real against 'the Bears'.
Blair, you’ve been unavailable recently through recurring symptoms of concussion. What happened there?
"It was the one I picked up against Georgia (in the final warm-up Test). I had been doing full training and, when I had to do my contact element for my return to play (protocols), I just couldn’t pass that.
“It was frustrating - obviously you want to be fighting fit but you don’t take any chances with your head.
"It was the right decision. Everyone gets concussed in different ways. I was just waking up with headaches and just wasn’t feeling quite right, which is one of the things you tick off.”
How frustrating has it been not getting any game time so far?
"I wouldn’t say so. I am loving being at my first World Cup here in Japan. I think many of the boys are the same.
“Obviously you want to be out on the pitch but I’m just training as hard as I can and giving everything.
“That is as much as you can do really. Fingers crossed I get a run on Wednesday [against Russia]."
How are you viewing any opportunities to play from a personal perspective?
"Everyone who is involved just has to put their best foot forward. Everyone is up for selection.
“I think positions are up for grabs and everyone is fighting for the game that is coming up.
"The pre-season games were my first back since my injury. I thought I was hitting my stride towards the end, especially in that Georgia game.
"If I do get my shot on Wednesday, I need to take it.”
How different is a world cup camp?
"We have had experience of being in camp with each other before, but we have always had that opportunity to escape each other and go home on a Wednesday or after a game.
"But here you are surrounded by everyone. You get to know everyone a bit better. It is nice hanging out with all the lads."
Sam, you’ve started twice. Do you fancy missing the Russia game to get a rest for the Japan match four days later?
“No, it's all part of it. It's a World Cup so if you have to back up in four days, you back up in four days. You just need to approach your recovery as well as you can.
“It's an honour to pull on that Scotland jersey. It doesn't matter who it's against or how quick the turnaround is. You just turn up and give it your best crack.”
Have you ever faced a turnaround like that before?
“This would be the tightest. I don't think you'd ever play a club game within four days.
“If you escape injury-free against Russia, I'm sure there will be an element of soreness and tiredness, but we're not the only team with a four-day turnaround, so it is what it is.
“We haven't even spoken about Japan really.
“We've got Russia on Wednesday and I'm sure whoever doesn't play in that one might start looking to Japan. But not much has been said about Japan – it's all about Russia.”
What’s the tactical approach going to be for Russia [given the general consensus is Scotland need maximum points]?
"We know we can't go out there and just throw the ball around and think we're going to score four tries in the first 20 minutes.
“Greig Laidlaw has been saying all week that we need to construct these games of rugby.
"Russia have improved with each game and we’ll treat them with respect.
"We need to show them the intensity and respect we showed to Samoa and construct a game of rugby.”
What do you think of Russia so far?
"They’re improving. They have kicked the most and, in these conditions, the kicking game has been a huge aspect. It's been frustrating for me because I've hardly touched the ball!
“But they are improving. They are getting fitter. Against Japan and Samoa, they started tiring after about 50 minutes, but they went all game against Ireland at the weekend.
“Their skill set was improving against Ireland, too. They were going wide-wide, so we need to treat them with utmost respect.
“But we'll concentrate on ourselves, show them our physicality and put them under as much pressure as we can."