Scotland play Russia in their next Rugby World Cup match – and they know a victory is an absolute must.
But beyond just winning the game, Gregor Townsend’s men needs to send out a message about their hopes of advancing in the tournament.
Scotland kicked off their campaign with a disappointing performance as Ireland beat them 27-3 in Yokohama.
Per BBC Scotland, it was a ‘clinical’ display of rugby from the Irish as they cemented their place as the top-ranked side in the world.
Scotland were denied a try in the game, with Townsend claiming his side lacked ‘energy and aggression’, per BBC Scotland.
That changed in their second game against Samoa.
Scotland travelled to a hot Kobe well aware that nothing but a victory – and a dominant one – would do.
And that’s what they produced, with Sean Maitland and Greg Laidlaw going in for tries in a 34-0 win. That was expected despite Samoa beating Russia 34-9 in their opening game.
Townsend would have been a lot happier with his team’s final product – as well as their ability to stop Samoa from crossing the line.
The opening defeat to Ireland put a dent in Scotland’s hopes of qualifying from the group, but it was far from a disaster.
And now they know exactly what they need to do to more than likely qualify – beat everybody else.
Ireland beat Russia 35-0 today to take a two-point lead over hosts Japan at the top of their group and you have to assume they will top the group.
So it’s Japan that Scotland need to be careful of.
After two games, the Japanese have nine points compared to the Scottish five. They are unbeaten and look dangerous. Their 19-12 victory over Ireland shows they are serious about pushing for a title on home turf.
But Scotland play them on October 13th in their final game and that could be the match to decide who goes through.
Now Townsend has to see the game against Russia as Scotland’s opportunity to really lay down a marker.
With a heavy win they can grab a bonus point – and it would provide them with a big confidence booster going into the potential decider against Japan in Yokohama.
For Russia, Scotland should be favourites to emerge victorious via rugby odds online.
And that should add more pressure to Townsend’s team.
They’ve had to contend with injuries before and during this World Cup campaign and that definitely hasn’t helped them play their best rugby.
But Russia are a team Scotland can beat and beat convincingly – and send a message out to Japan that they are next on the list.
If they can do that and then beat the Japanese, it could put them through to the knockout rounds – something many likely didn’t think they were capable of after that disappointing opening game defeat to Ireland.
And who knows what they are capable of after that. There are some strong teams playing well in the tournament already, but it would be knockout rugby – and anything can happen in that.