Gregor Townsend praised Scotland for bouncing back emphatically from their South Africa defeat to score 19 tries in back-to-back victories over Tonga and Romania and set up a World Cup Pool B shootout with Ireland for a place in the quarter-finals.
The Scots have been playing must-win rugby since losing their opener to the Boks, and after beating Tonga 45-17 last weekend, they pulled off another bonus-point win by defeating Romania 84-0 in Lille on Saturday.
The past two results mean Townsend’s team now have a chance to qualify for the last eight if they defeat Ireland in Paris next Saturday night either with a bonus point or by denying Andy Farrell’s side a losing bonus.
“I’m really pleased with the way they’ve bounced back,” said the head coach. “A lot of hard work has gone in at training. We had a two-week break between South Africa and Tonga and we had three very tough, physical sessions in the heat.
“The players trained really well this week as well so they’re putting in the hard yards that is required to then play at a level where you can score the amount of tries we’ve scored in the last two games, where we’ve been able to set up this shootout game with Ireland.
“The credit goes to the players for how they’ve worked in training and in the matches against Tonga and Romania. Both games were very physical and you’ve got to win that physical battle, which we did.”
Darcy Graham climbed from sixth on Scotland’s all-time try-scoring list to joint-second by touching down four times in the 12-try romp against Romania. The Edinburgh wing leapfrogged Duhan van der Merwe and Chris Paterson and is now level with Ian Smith and Tony Stanger on 24, just three shy of record-holder Stuart Hogg.
“I think he’s someone who will create opportunities to score tries because of his willingness to get on the ball,” said Townsend. “He called a lot of the balls because he got back off the ground to be in position.
“He saw space and he also is a great finisher. His footwork for the fourth try was incredible. He had a couple of assists as well, so he certainly plays for the team.
“In the last two games, Darcy’s really gone for it and we’ve seen that in training. Sometimes it’s tough when you’re a winger and you’ve not had the game time he would have liked after he picked up that little niggle over the summer but he’s now flying and that’s brilliant to see.”
Graham was one of only a few first-choice players to start against Romania as Townsend made 13 changes with Ireland in mind. The head coach was pleased with the way his back-ups performed against the eastern European minnows.
“I thought the way the players applied themselves, to be given that opportunity you could see they wanted to go and grab it,” he said.
“It has been a tough time for a lot of these players, to not play. Some of them have not played since our first World Cup warm-up game against Italy.
“That was a deliberate policy to keep a 23 and 15 working as much as possible together as we built up to our South Africa game, and then when you have a two-week break, then another week versus Tonga, it is a long time to wait to play at a World Cup.
“But they grabbed their opportunity tonight and whether that means they play next week will be decided in selection.
“I’m really pleased with the level of competition, the depth we have and the individual performances tonight that means whoever goes out next week we can be confident of their ability to get the job done.”
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