First of all congratulations for choosing
the 31 man squad that will travel to Japan for the Rugby World Cup. How difficult a process
was that for you? It has been a challenge because we have had a lot of quality players
available for us in training and our games but as soon as we finished the selection discussion
on Sunday morning we were really pleased with the squad that we put together. We know that
there are some very good players that have missed out but when you look right throughout
the squad we have got players that are in very good form that have taken opportunities
for Scotland whether it is just in the last few games or in the last couple of seasons. Players will work really hard for each other, players that have an edge, a will to win and
that is a great combination when you go to a tournament like Rugby World Cup. You have
gone for a 17/14 split between forwards and backs was it always the plan to have that
split or did any injuries change your thinking? The original plan was 18/13 that was
what Danny Wilson our forwards coach was pushing all summer and we always knew that we would
get to the discussion of will that work. 18/13 allows you to rest one forward. 17/14 allows
one back to be rested if you have to play two games in a week which will be the case
when we go between Russia and Japan. I think the injury to Sam Skinner got us talking more
about combinations and blends and what we need in the back row and second row and a
couple of backs are just coming back from injury like Sam Johnson missed a chunk of
games and Duncan Taylor had missed a couple of games too so in the end we believe 14 backs
gives us a really good cover and with some of the forwards being able to play across
the back row 17 is a good number too. Looking at the team overall you have chosen 13 players
that have previous Rugby World Cup experience how important of an element is that to you?
It is important they have been to a tournament probably less relevant given the last tournament
was in the UK. This will be new for every player nobody has been to a World Cup in Japan before.
Some countries have played in Japan and some players have played in Japan we are lucky
that a fair majority of our group I believe we’re on the tour to Japan a couple of years
ago so they have experienced what living in Japan is like, what the conditions are like
and playing against Japan who are one of our opponents. I think the experience of the group
is a bonus in general and there are a lot of players who have played 20, 30, 60 times
for Scotland and that really helps, nothing will phase them and the players that maybe
haven’t played as much for Scotland certainly taken the game to the opposition whenever they have had a chance so we believe we have a confident group. A group that will lead on
the field, lead in meetings and that is really important because coaches can’t do much to
influence a game once we get closer to kick-off. You mentioned leading on the field, you have
gone with Stuart McInally as captain for Scotland in the 2019 Rugby World Cup we have talked
before about the extensive leadership group you now have there so what made you go with
Stuart as captain? Stuart has done a really good job on the opportunities he has been
captain for Scotland, he captained Edinburgh this year, he is a real lead by example player
both at training and in-game, he is a calming person, he brings others into meetings and into
talks which I believe is really important when you see the other leaders that we have
Greig Laidlaw and John Barclay that have captained the side on a number of occasions. We have
leaders of different parts of our game whether that is Finn Russell in attack, Stuart Hogg
in attack as well, Grant Gilchrist and Jonny Gray who lead the line-out so Stuart is a
person, a leader, that brings the best out of others. It was great to see the leadership
group work so well last week in Georgia. The whole week they drove the detail, the standards
required to get a winning performance out in Georgia and on the field I thought they
worked really well together. Just looking at the group as a whole you have to omit
players you cannot take everyone. What do you say to the players then that unfortunately
haven’t made the cut of the Rugby World Cup? There is not much you can say, you have to get to
the point quite quickly and say you have missed out in selection, these are the reasons why and
if there are outstanding reasons so at least the players know there are things they can
work on whenever they get the chance to play for Scotland again but also then those conversations
with a positive and a agreement of to keep working hard as opportunities may come around very
quickly. We had 8 players that missed out on average it is 6 or 7 injuries most teams
get during a World Cup so within a number of weeks the players that have received those
phone calls one or two of them might be joining us. We are delighted with the squad but also
very confident that anybody that we call up are going to continue the quality and the
standards that the squad have set. These players have trained with us over the last few weeks,
they have played and played well for us so if they do get the call up we know that we
will still have a very strong squad in Japan. First up it is Ireland, it is going to be
a tough game there but going past that and moving forward in to the World Cup. What is
the expectation you have set on yourself and the team in the 2019 Rugby World Cup? The
goal and the expectation is to play our best rugby and I firmly believe that when we play
our best rugby we can be a match for any team in the world and beat any team in the world
so the process is getting to play our best rugby on September 22 against Ireland and
continuing that for as long as we can. We have been working hard throughout this summer
to be in the best physical shape we can possibly be in and I believe that we are the fittest
team going into the World Cup. We have seen it with our fitness tests, with what we get
back from our GPS and our tracking and we know what other countries do, we are the fittest
team going into the World Cup. Now transferring that into a game that puts pressure on the
opposition that outworks opposition is sometimes not as easy as we’d like but we have certainly
seen that transition coming clear over the last couple of games. Another game this weekend
will help that process, some intense training sessions out in Nagasaki first of all then
getting to Yokohama should get us in a great position to take on Ireland. Finally a note
on Georgia this weekend it is last game on our warm-up games, another challenge at BT
Murrayfield. We are expecting a big crowd which is fantastic, it was amazing to have
a full house behind us for the France game and the energy the crowd gave us is great.
At the weekend out in Georgia we had to take away the energy that the Georgian team got
from the home support now we have got to use the energy we get from the crowd to start
strong, continue the high standards in that professional job we did last week against
a very motivated team and for the group of players it is an opportunity for them to show
that they should be selected for the first game against Ireland. An opportunity for a
number of players to play again and play for the first time for a couple of them and to
really leave Edinburgh and leave Scotland at the weekend with another step forward in terms
of our improvements and our goal of playing our best rugby come September 22.