Townsend surprised by ‘incredible’ scrum call which could affect Scotland hopes

Gregor Townsend admits he was left “really surprised” by the late scrum penalty handed to Japan against Samoa which means the World Cup hosts could still progress from Pool A even if they lose Sunday’s crucial showdown with Scotland.

Japan secured a bonus point in Saturday’s 38-19 win when they scored a stoppage-time try after Samoa were pulled up for a rarely-questioned crooked put-in by South African referee Jaco Peyper – a decision which left Townsend perplexed.

Japan’s extras mean Scotland could take maximum points from their final two Pool A clashes against Russia – who they face on Wednesday – and the Brave Blossoms and still crash out if the hosts were to secure two losing bonus points of their own.

Scotland coach Townsend said: “Look, I think it is an incredible call.

“It’s not something that’s been referred and there’s an agreement there is more latitude for the scrum-half putting the ball into the scrum because you are the team who has won the scrum.

“To see it in the World Cup really surprised me. To see it come in added-on time was an even bigger surprise.

“It was a call I’ve not seen for a long time in the game.”

Scotland’s fate remains in the balance but they could yet be given a helping hand from Mother Nature.

World Rugby says it is monitoring a typhoon that could hit Japan on Saturday and potentially stop Ireland’s quarter-final bid in its tracks.

Typhoon Hagibis has formed in the Western Pacific Ocean off the south coast of Japan, with forecasts suggesting it could hit the island of Kyushu this weekend.

Ireland face Samoa in the Kyushu city of Fukuoka on Saturday, where Joe Schmidt’s men need a bonus-point victory to seal their place in the last eight.

Any games cancelled at the World Cup due to weather problems are registered as scoreless draws – meaning Scotland and Japan could yet find themselves progressing at Ireland’s expense.

But Townsend insists his side will have to get to the knock-out stages under their own steam regardless of the weather situation.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Ireland are also fighting to get out of Pool A (Adam Davy/PA)</figcaption>
Ireland are also fighting to get out of Pool A (Adam Davy/PA)

He said: “My first thought was that it was called Typhoon Haggis, obviously it’s not.

“We came off the training field today and we were made aware of it.

“It’s something that’s always a possibility throughout this month in this part of the world.

“A couple have already skipped past Japan, but this could come into play over the weekend.

Listen, we have to win our next two games to qualify. That would not change if the Ireland and Samoa game ended up in a draw.

“I don’t think it will be a factor for our game on Wednesday, but perhaps we will get the tail end of it in Tokyo on Sunday.

“The Ireland game cannot be postponed, it has to be played that day. If it cannot be played that day then it’s two points for each team.

“Whether it can be played in another venue, I’m not too sure.

“Listen, we have to win our next two games to qualify. That would not change if the Ireland and Samoa game ended up in a draw.”

Townsend has made 14 changes to the side which thrashed Samoa last week after deciding to hold the majority of his top stars in reserve for the Japan clash.

Only wing Darcy Graham is retained but the coach has backed his second string to get the result they need against Russia.

He said: “We have had a long rest into this game, but obviously don’t have too long a rest going into our final game.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Darcy Graham is the only player retained in the Scotland XV (David Davies/PA)</figcaption>
Darcy Graham is the only player retained in the Scotland XV (David Davies/PA)

“We have a job to do, that much is clear. Russia have gained in confidence, they look a fit team.

“They have a very good scrum and an excellent kicking game.

“They will put everything into this.

“It’s important we build on the momentum we built against Samoa.”