Having watched Ireland lose a -21 point handicap match on Saturday morning, by seven points, I have started to question everything in my life…… Was it real? Did it actually happen? It did and I have been bitten. I am now officially twice shy.
We won’t be caught this time. Scotland are 17 point favourites and I think that is too high. The ‘minnows’ in this tournament have turned out to be more than a match for their ‘superior’ opposition. It may have something to do with the humidity, the wonky World Rankings or the fact that the referees are beginning to referee the games based on the directives handed out at the start, but I think you will agree, something weird is going on over in Japan.
Looking at the handicap, we have to look at Samoa being the only side left at the World Cup who have not conceded a try and I think that winning by 17 is too much of an ask for a mentally fragile Scottish side. The Pool has been blown wide open for Gregor Townsend’s side, but they will be cautious in this tie. They’ll take a 3-0 win right here and now.
To score a try in 80 mins
Last week, ahead of the Ireland game, I talked up the prospect of Finn Russell being man of the match. In reality, it was as poor as Scotland could have been, so we didn’t see anyone in navy and white who would inspire confidence this time around. Considering that Scotland were kept from scoring a try against Ireland, by virtue of being dominated up front, we are looking for some try-scoring inspiration to come from the new-look Scottish back-row who have been called upon to lead the charge.
The entire back row has been changed as Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Ritchie and Blade Thomson step in for John Barclay, Hamish Watson and Ryan Wilson. This is an area where Scotland should get some dominance. Scotland have it all to prove on Monday and with Laidlaw still at nine, a flowing back-row move might not be on the cards either.
So, we are backing openside Jamie Ritchie to act as a link man between Scotland’s pack and backs and let’s hope he gets on the end of a move for five points too.
Something for Samoa
Let’s look at Samoa for this last bet of the three. Samoa have made four changes to the team that beat Russia in the first round of matches. Hooker Ray Niuia, captain and number eight Jack Lam, scrum-half Melani Matavao, and winger Belgium Tuatagaloa all come into the starting XV. With that pace and power added into the side, I think there is going to be more width to the Samoan play than normal.
Scotland were beaten up by Ireland, so their forwards have a point to prove. Should Samoa get a foothold in this game and they get one or more shouts at a five pointer, then winger Ed Fidow is not going to be far away.
Fidow has scored 10 tries in his first nine test appearances, a feat so rare it has only been achieved by Bryan Habana, Shane Williams and Tana Umaga. Some serious company there and a great stat to tell your mates over lunch on Monday when Fidow scores.
Samoa +17 @ 10/11
Jamie Ritchie to score a try in 80 minutes @ 11/4
Ed Fidow to score a try in 80 minutes @ 21/10