THOSE currently forking out for hotels in downtown Yokohama and working out the sterling-yen exchange rate can breathe again. Scotland might have shipped five tries and 32 points at the Allianz Rivera in Nice last Saturday, scoring a paltry three in return, but our Rugby World Cup fate is not without hope after all.

A second successive shoeing by Les Bleus would have cast a gloomy cloud over Gregor Townsend’s side’s ambitions in the global showpiece before they even got off the ground and that prospect didn’t seem too far-fetched when they trailed this match 14-3 in the first half.

In truth, though, that was a rather harsh fate. While this was an error-strewn outing, there was still much to admire about the way Scotland chiselled out the win. What else did we learn from a 17-14 victory which provided a badly-needed pre-Japan morale boost.


England 57 Ireland 15. Australia taking 47 points off New Zealand, then the Kiwis returning the favour by taking 36 off the Aussies to no reply. It was entirely in keeping with this that Scotland should turn over opponents who humbled them a week earlier. It is quite simply foolish to make too much in grand pronouncements on the strength of this series of summer Tests.

Of course, victory and defeat is important – never more so than for Scotland after their humbling in Nice. But squads and motivation varies drastically from game to game, look no further than a French side who might have wanted to win the game but didn’t need it as much as the hosts.

The four changes they made to their Nice line-up actually made this arguably a stronger French line-up, but matches like these are all about fitness, shadow boxing and not showing too much of your hand. Had the French mentally taken their foot of the gas in the latter stages.


Gregor Townsend was making gloomy noises on Saturday evening about whether Sam Skinner, the Exeter Chiefs forward and former England youth cap, would be able to make the Rugby World Cup after he sustained a hamstring injury at the base of a ruck and had to be helped off the field.

An update on that will follow in the next 24 hours and it was another blow for him to lose Tommy Seymour from the wing and debutant No 8 Blade Thomson after they failed head injury assessments during what was a bruising encounter.

Both men were playing well at the time – Thomson was part of a back-row effort alongside Ryan Wilson and Hamish Watson which was creating turnovers galore – but the concussions suffered make it well nigh impossible for Townsend to give them any playing time in Georgia on Saturday night, the final tune-up match before he confirms his final 31-man squad next Tuesday at Linlithgow Palace. Thomson’s fairly recent history of head trauma is another thing for Townsend to ponder as he finalises his squad.

One look at the NFL, currently in pre-season, shows how difficult these matches are to negotiate. While it is essential to get sharpness in your squad, prized assets such as New England Patriots quarter back Tom Brady deemed so valuable that they are barely glimpsed.

Similarly, one tackle or knock could have major consequences to Scotland’s World Cup hopes so I wouldn’t be surprised if key men like Stuart Hogg, who has started both meetings with France, or fly half Finn Russell, are either shut down or used sparingly against the Georgians.


For all the muttering and shaking of heads as Scotland conceded 14 first half points, this was the best defensive effort from Gregor Townsend’s side in a calendar year where they hadn’t conceded less than 18 in any match.

And the two tries they did concede didn’t come from any kind of system breakdown, more individual mistakes which were ruthlessly exploited by the French. Pete Horne’s pass for the first try was ill conceived, time seeming to go in slow motion as it only found the hands of the quicksilver Damian Penaud, who cantered to the line.

A rare mis-field by Russell led to the second, Penaud again cantering through after Sofiane Guitoune found the space in the Scottish defence. While Thomas Ramos converted both tries, Greig Laidlaw potted an early penalty and the Scots consistently won turnover ball, they achieved 22 in all, and created two tries of their own.


Scotland defence coach Matt Taylor said during the week that some members of his squad had already missed their last chance to make the plane to Japan. The message seemed to have got through to his players, because there were plenty in action on Saturday who seemed determined to make the most of their opportunity.

None more so than Chris Harris, the Newcastle Falcons centre. Nowhere in the squad is more congested than the midfield, where he is one of six players alongside Horne, Duncan Taylor, Huw Jones, Rory Hutchinson and Sam Johnson, vying for inclusion.

The 28-year-old, a late developer who has been something of a slow burn in his Scotland career to date, has the physique to be a real asset to Scotland. Not only did his physicality help Scotland pounce on a French mistake in the lead-up to a fine first try for Sean Maitland, he showed another side to his match with the angled run onto Greig Laidlaw’s pass which led to the crucial second try.

Debutant Thomson – part of a muscular back row effort – during his time on the field, was another man who did himself no harm, other that is than the head knock he sustained.


Tbilisi – where Scotland will become the first tier one rugby nation to visit this week - is a fabulous and crazy place. While Gregor Townsend will be greeted warmly by this aspiring rugby country, they shouldn’t expect it to be a bed of roses. This match has long been earmarked as a beginners’ guide to what Scotland can expect when they take on host nation Japan in what is likely to be a pivotal group match at the Rugby World Cup.

More than 50,000 people can cram into the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena, a venue where the Scotland football team have twice come a cropper, under first Alex McLeish then Gordon Strachan.