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Scotland’s World Cup starts now, says determined head coach Gregor Townsend
The Scots lost heavily to Ireland in their Pool A opener last Sunday.
Gregor Townsend insists Scotland are not under extra pressure – despite admitting they face World Cup elimination if they fail to beat Samoa on Monday.
The Dark Blues have no room for error after being thrashed by Ireland in last Sunday’s Pool A opener.
Japan’s shock win over Joe Schmidt’s men means bonus points could now have an impact but what is clear is the Scots must overcome the Pacific Islanders, Russia and then hosts if they want to keep hopes to the last eight alive.
But Townsend insists his team would still have had to topple their three final group opponents even if they had managed to upset Schmidt’s side in Yokohama last week.
“The players have responded well in training, know what is required of them and are hungry to deliver the kind of performance that keeps us in the World Cup.
“The reality is we now have to win our next three games to make it out of our pool, so the knockout stages for us begin this Monday night. I firmly believe this group are ready to take on that challenge.”
Magnus Bradbury will go straight into Townsend’s line-up after the head coach reacted to last week’s thrashing from the Irish by changing his entire back row.
The Edinburgh flanker was a late call-up to the squad after replacing Hamish Watson, who has travelled home early after suffering a serious knee injury in the Dark Blues’ disastrous World Cup opener in Yokohama, and will start on the blindside at Kobe’s Misaki Stadium.
Watson’s slot on the openside goes to Jamie Ritchie while vice-captain John Barclay and Ryan Wilson have also lost their places in the starting XV after being out-muscled by Joe Schmidt’s men, with Blade Thomson now starting at number eight against the Pacific Islanders.
Townsend has also made two changes in the back, with centre Chris Harris and wing Darcy Graham taking over from Tommy Seymour and Duncan Taylor.
Townsend added: “Samoa are a team capable of scoring points from anywhere on the field. They play an ambitious brand of rugby and their team is full of skilful and powerful players.
“We had worked hard in our build-up to this tournament to deliver our best rugby but we were well below this level in our opening game against Ireland. We’ll need to be much better on Monday night against such a dangerous opponent.”