Scotland coach Townsend laughs off claim his side out to ‘avoid embarrassment’

World Rugby chiefs have yet to decide if the match at the International Stadium will go ahead.

By Press Association Published: 11 October 2019 - 1.35pm

Gregor Townsend has laughed off Japan coach Jamie Joseph’s claims Scotland will be looking to “avoid embarrassment” during Sunday’s typhoon-threatened clash in Yokohama.

The Brave Blossoms coach was angered by suggestions the World Cup hosts would be pleased to see the climax to Pool A cancelled due to the imminent arrival of Typhoon Hagibis as it would guarantee them a spot in the last eight.

World Rugby chiefs have yet to decide if the match at the International Stadium will go ahead as the 1400km-wide super storm closes in on Yokohama.

If it is axed, the result would be recorded as a draw and Japan would progress ahead of Townsend’s team.

But Joseph hit out at claims his team were hoping for a cancellation, insisting it was not “fluke” that Japan were top of their pool as he revealed their determined to prove they belong among the world’s top rugby nations.

He raged: “Just in the past few days through the media reports I’ve read, I feel they’ve undermined the achievements of the Japanese national team and the significance of Sunday’s Test for Japan.

“We’ve all earned the right to be considered one of the elite teams in the world. It’s important for us to wake up on Monday morning and understand we’re a worthy top eight team or we’re not.

“The key difference here between us and Scotland is that we’re driven and supported by the whole country.

“My team is motivated by achieving something great, not avoiding embarrassment.”

But Townsend – whose side need a win of at least eight points to guarantee their place in the quarter-finals – refused to get drawn into a slagging match with his opposite number as he brushed those comments aside.

He said: “I had a good laugh. You may know that coaches use press conference to put messages out and to get a response from other coaches. Sometimes you don’t get to do your press conferences after the opposition so it was good to see.

“This is a game against the home nation, so it's a game you dream to be involved in”
- Gregor Townsend

“No this is the game that a lot of people are looking forward to. We have been talking about it as one of rare occasions where you get to play in a game that’s a straight shoot-out for quarter-finals, obviously with the proviso we score seven points more than Japan.

“This is a game against the home nation, so it’s a game you dream to be involved in.

“Regarding Jamie Joseph’s comments I did see them, on one hand he said it’s no fluke (Japan are) at the top but then he said it would be an embarrassment if we were to lose to the team who is at the top of the pool currently.

“Japan are an excellent side and we’ll need to play very well to win.”

Scotland v Russia – Pool A – 2019 Rugby World Cup – Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa
Stuart McInally has been dropped for the Pool A decider (Adam Davy/PA)

Townsend has made a major call with his team selection after deciding to drop his skipper Stuart McInally to the bench, selecting Glasgow’s Fraser Brown at hooker instead with Greig Laidlaw now resuming the captaincy.

“We believe for this game and for the way Fraser has been playing, the balance of Fraser starting and Stuart coming off the bench is the right way to go for a number of tactical reasons, and to reward Fraser’s really good form over the last three games,” he said.

“Stuart is not in his best form. He was much better against Samoa compared to the Ireland game. Fraser has been excellent since coming back from injury. We have seen Stuart improving in training and believe he can have a big impact in the second half.”