Gregor Townsend expects Scotland v Ireland to be a shoot-out for last eight

‘We’re playing the No 1 team in the world in two weeks’ time, we know it’s going to be a difficult challenge’

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend says he expects their meeting with Ireland in Paris on Saturday week to be a “straight shoot-out” for a World Cup quarter-final place.

Tonga were dispatched by Townsend’s team at the Stade de Nice on Sunday, an attacking bonus point secured by half-time in a 45-17 win featuring seven different try-scorers.

The next target on the Scots’ qualification mission is another bonus-point success, this time against Romania in Lille on Saturday. While achieving that is not a foregone conclusion, Romania have so far been beaten 82-8 by Ireland and 76-0 by South Africa in Pool B.

The head coach is confident of optimising their overall chances and setting up a high-stakes clash against No 1-ranked Ireland a week later.


“The fact South Africa picked up a bonus point [in Saturday’s defeat by Ireland] does mean it’s a straight shoot-out between us and Ireland, if South Africa pick up five points against Tonga,” Townsend said.

“If they do, they’ll get to 15 points and us and Ireland are competing to get to 14 points, unless we win with bonus points [against Ireland].

“We have to get to 10 points [against Romania] to make sure it becomes a shoot-out between us and them ... If we were to win that Ireland game by more than seven points, we get through to the quarter-finals. It’s as straightforward as that, but when we’re playing the No 1 team in the world in two weeks’ time, we know it’s going to be a difficult challenge.”

Pool B table

Scotland were obliged to wait a fortnight to return to action following the opening defeat by South Africa, and the head coach said he was pleased with the effort of his players against the typically robust Tongans.

“It was a different Test match; we had to front up physically and we did that,” Townsend said. “We had a platform there to score more points, but we’ve got to be very happy with a 45-point win having not played for two weeks, and when we know we have to do it the hard way to get out of this group.”

Townsend also spoke of an emotional moment in the changing room on Sunday, with Stuart McInally, the veteran hooker, forced out of the tournament with a neck injury sustained in training. McInally was called up less than two weeks ago after an injury to Dave Cherry. Glasgow’s Johnny Matthews will replace the 33-year-old McInally, who is retiring to pursue a career as an airline pilot.

“He got a presentation in the changing room from the players and Grant Gilchrist gave him a fantastic speech,” Townsend said. “It’s a very emotional time for all of us ... we all thought this would be a great way for him to end his career, coming out and getting his 50th cap. That was something he deserved and had earned given what he had put into that jersey over his career ... It’s just bad luck.”