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From Tom English
BBC Scotland
In the wake of the beating victory over Russia of Scotland, the press room in the Shizuoka Stadium morphed into a conference for hapless meteorologists where Typhoon Hagibis acquired a whole lot compared to Hurricane Horne.
The storm raging round the Pacific Ocean drew chat than the hat-trick of the scrum-half. When people talked of things and intensity moving with astonishing rate they werent talking about Scotlands forward package or Darcy Grahams excellence, they were on about the gathering menace that is Hagibis and the impact it may have on the fantastic showdown between Scotland and Japan at Yokohama on Sunday.
Rumour was followed by rumour. Theory followed concept. 1 chap was crouched within an app that seemed to be monitoring Hagibis like one of these internet Santa trackers on Christmas Eve. It looks like its approaching Guam, he said. Saipan next. They have announced an emergency It was utterly surreal.
Scotland conquer Russia 61-0 and were two idle passes from incorporating another 10 or even 14 points to this total. George Horne obtained three tries but it could have been four. Adam Hastings obtained two attempts but it could have been three. The youthful half-backs were exceptional, but this nights story was that the confusion. Hagibis is still days away from the Japan mainland but already its causing mayhem.
The direction said nothing, maybe because they knew nothing because they understood something but were sworn to silence World Rugby. Will the game proceed on Sunday? No comment. Can it be transferred to Monday? It would be wrong to suppose. Will it be transferred to another town? There are a selection of contingencies. Will it be abandoned entirely therefore ensuring Scotland are out of the World Cup? Therell be a statement on Thursday.
Scotland fans left Shizuoka but for people planning to kick-on to get Yokohama this lack of clarity was hard. There was nobody around to lose any daylight on what went on. Japan guaranteed a World Cup and thats what weve obtained. Gregor Townsend spent part of his press conference speaking about this near-biblical tempest going our way. You dont hear that kind of conversation.
On the field, Scotland acquired the job done with little fuss and a great deal of professionalism. They hit Russia early struck them then kept hitting them all of the way into the end. You felt to the underdogs because this was a match too much for them. They were out in their toes from early on. Having Scotland running at them must have been torture. They just didnt have the capability to push the tide back.
Scotland nilled Russia just like that they nilled Samoa at Kobe. We are not discussing high calibre resistance here but keeping any competitor scoreless is a badge of honor into a rugby player. Speaking later, it was the nine tries they talked about, it was the shut-out, too. That meant as far as any of the dozens they made.
That kind of thing builds self-belief, it adds momentum, it makes a joy from the squad which they take into the Japan game if the group that plays with is radically different to the one that conquer Russia. Townsend made 14 changes for Shizuoka and hes very likely to reverse them for Yokohama. Graham is very likely to be the man who keeps his place.
Townsend does not have problems in his teams selection, but his bench might alter somewhat. Pete Horne and a second of this World Cup may not have played with but he was successful and might squeeze into the 23 ahead.
If Horne makes it — covering fly-half and also center — there might be a thought dedicated to bringing in the X-factor of all Blair Kinghorn . Hes got that quality, which knack of getting in behind and busting a defence although kinghorn had errors in his game against Russia.
It might indicate that Hastings loses out — cruel if that is the case given his performance against Russia — however, Kinghorn is flexible. He has been catastrophic in both rankings and can play full-back and also with wing. If Scotland are in dire need of a try against Japan afterward Kinghorn could be a useful citizen to have. His replacements make-up will give him something to consider, although townsend does not have a lot to contemplate in his 23.
Horne the younger is one of those that will return to the bench for the Japan match, but he is coming of age in this championship game. After his hat-trick he has six tries in his nine appearances for Scotland. That is an attempt in 66% of the Tests he is played. With Glasgow, hes 22 attempts in 42 matches — a try in 52% of his matches, a higher percentage than anybody.
For state and club he has 28 tries in 51 games — an astounding strike-rate. Horne wont start against Japan, but he still remains a weapon off the seat. He is like a truffle dog having his ability. Time was when the creators-in-chief of Scotland mostly finished with Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg and started, but theres a wit factor within this squad.
Horne has magic in him has Graham. We have not seen the best of Kinghorn however but theres a really serious rugby player in there. Magnus Bradbury got some from Russia to him. Hes becoming a presence in this setup now although jamie Ritchie was not needed. There appears like a shifting of the guard these past few weeks.
This World Cup was planned by townsend with all the detail but look what has happened. His midfield of 2 weeks ago has been broken up, Chris Harris taking more than Taylor. Tommy Seymour played before Graham from Ireland but Graham is undroppable.
Late Septembers go-to back-row was Ryan Wilson, John Barclay and Hamish Watson. Thats all gone. Now its become Bradbury, Blade Thomson along with Ritchie. These three have just played one competitive game together and still have it all to establish, but they are an exciting group capable of going toe-to-toe with Japan, who have a influential and terrific row of the own.
The speculation regarding the match — where and when and maybe if it will occur — will carry on until Thursday when World Rugby will create their own call. Lets cross our fingers and hope that the Celtics gods defeat also this also game and the weather gods goes forward in a scene of sound and colour and at the kind of atmosphere that befits what should be an extraordinary event.