Saturday 19 October 2019

Point-chasing Scotland won't be writing off Russian threat, says Fagerson

Zander Fagerson, right, made his World Cup debut against Samoa (Adam Davy/PA)
Zander Fagerson, right, made his World Cup debut against Samoa (Adam Davy/PA)

Andy Newport

Zander Fagerson says the picture could not be any clearer for Scotland after Japan's last-gasp push sent their World Cup quarter-final race down to the wire.

The Dark Blues gathered as a squad to watch the Brave Blossoms take on Samoa in Toyota City.

Gregor Townsend's men were hoping to see the hosts slip up against the Pacific Islanders but were left disappointed as they battled through, with Kotaro Matsushima clinching a bonus-point win deep into injury time.

It had looked as though Japan could fail to muster the fourth try, but Samoa were penalised for a crooked feed to the scrum after the 80 minutes had been played and, from the resulting reversal of the scrum, Japan got the crucial score.

"The opposition scrum did exactly the same as us in the next scrum. They get away with it. Sometimes I scratch my head," said an irritated Samoan coach Steve Jackson, who was upset at other decisions by referee Jaco Peyper.

Scotland must now take the win and the extras on offer against Russia on Wednesday before beating Japan by four clear group points when they meet in their do-or-die showdown four days later to ensure a place in the last eight.

Clarity But that is the clarity Glasgow tighthead prop Fagerson is looking for. "It has made the picture clearer for us, what we need to do against Russia first and what we need to do against Japan in the last game," he said. "Can we afford to start thinking about Japan? Not really, no. We have Russia first and if we don't get the job done against Russia there is no point in even thinking about Japan."

The Russians have shipped 99 points having been thrashed in all three of their fixtures so far.

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But Fagerson insists it would be folly to write off Lyn Jones' side ahead of their clash in Shizuoka.

He said: "If you actually watch the Russia games in the World Cup so far, they have been there or thereabouts. They were beating Japan at half-time, they are a very physical team, they are very well drilled in defence and have a really strong forward pack, that try to smash you up physically."

Fagerson made his World Cup debut during Monday's 34-0 win over Samoa as he got on for the final 22 minutes in Kobe.

He looks certain to start against the Russians, with Townsend likely to split his squad as he juggles the pressures of playing two games in four days against the requirement of taking enough points. But the 23-year-old says he will be a willing volunteer if asked to play both legs. "If the opportunity arises I will grasp it with both hands," he said.

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