Matt Taylor: Defensive Mindset
We caught up with Assistant Coach Matt Taylor to get his thoughts on Scotland's defensive effort against Samoa and the squad's preparations for the remaining Pool A games against Russia and Japan.
How satisfying is it for a defence coach to keep the opposition scoreless?
“From the first lineout we got off the line, we double-hit them and knocked them back. I think we took the stuffing out of them a little bit. It’s exactly what we needed to do and it was great the boys managed to do that early in the game and set a platform.
“You usually have a feeling in the first five or 10 minutes whether the boys are zoned in and that was really good. We spoke most of the week about that, so it was good we managed to start the game in the right mental space and right mindset.
“It is very satisfying when you’re a defence coach and manage to keep the sheet clean. Sometimes games go your way and sometimes they don’t. It was really good we put in a performance we could be proud of.”
How can Scotland get back to that level without needing reaction for motivation?
“The reality is it’s a knockout now. Every game is like a quarter-final. We have to turn up and play Russia with the right mindset and do a good professional job. Hopefully, if we do that, we set ourselves up for a really good game against Japan.
“I will be very disappointed if we don’t show the same aggression and mindset because we know, if we don’t show up, we are out. It is basically knockout every game for us now.
“We are back on the dance floor, we are back in the competition, and we have to make sure we do it for the next two games.”
How pleased were you with the back-row against Samoa?
“The back-row did a superb job. There was a really good balance. We had some really big guys in there. I thought Jamie Ritchie was outstanding, as was Magnus [Bradbury] and Blade [Thomson].
“Jamie is an excellent defensive player and the other two are very good defensive players, too, but they give you a bit more of a carry. The balance was really good, which helped our overall game.”
How will you manage the short turnaround between facing Russia and Japan?
"We have to manage two teams - who's playing and who's not. We've got to plan our tactics and make sure we do a professional job going into Russia. Then, three or four days later, with not much physical training, we go into Japan.
"We have to get the training right, the balance, the strategy, the players right. We've got to get a lot of things right because it's not a normal two weeks. Our planning and preparation has to be spot on.
"You don't really want to be looking towards Japan and not do a good job on Russia. Japan will mean nothing unless we get the Russia job done. It's a balancing act and we just need to make sure we nail it."
Does the prospect of a fairy-tale finish for the hosts give them an edge?
"The World Cup is in Japan and they are probably everyone's favourite team at the moment. We know that, but we're a proud rugby nation. We've had reasonable success in World Cups in terms of getting through the group stages.
"In that last game they are going to have to be worried about us a little bit as well, depending on how we go in this next game.
"If we do well in the Russia match then it sets it up for a great game; what a great World Cup moment to see who gets out of the pool. We'll throw everything at it to win that game. They will have to be worried about us."