Lille: Scotland cruised to an 84-0 victory over Romania on Saturday but the focus was always on next weekend’s crucial game against Ireland in Paris, with their hopes of reaching the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals on the line.
Gregor Townsend’s side need another victory in the French capital next Saturday, against much tougher opposition in the world’s number one side, if they want to reach the knock-out stage for the first time in eight years.
Scotland have reacted well to defeat in the opening round to South Africa by scoring 129 points and conceding just 17 against Tonga and then Romania.
World Cup holders the Springboks are on course to be other team to advance from Pool B.
“The players trained really well this week,” Townsend said after beating the Oaks.
“They are putting in the hard yards that is required to score the amount of tries we’ve scored in the last two games.
“We’ve been able to set-up this shoot-out game with Ireland,” he added.
Despite their very good recent form under Andy Farrell, Ireland’s record in the World Cup has been poor, failing to ever reach further than the last eight.
Townsend refused to be drawn on Ireland’s historic results in the competition especially after their impressive win over the Springboks last Saturday.
“I’m not going to answer that question,” former Scotland fly-half Townsend said with a smile.
“Ireland are the number one team in the world, on the back of 16 wins so they’re not going to think about what has happened in previous tournaments.
“They will take a huge amount of confidence from the last game,” the 50-year-old added.
Food for thought
Scotland are considered outsiders for a spot in the last eight and last beat Ireland in 2017.
“The games that we’ve played better in we’ve put pressure on Ireland on the scoreboard,” Townsend said.
“In any Test match, when you play a team ranked in the top three or four, you have to take your opportunities.
“The encouraging thing is that we’ve created opportunities and taken them playing at a level of intensity and accuracy until the final whistle is important.
“That’s always challenging against the top teams but we believe in our team, that we’re capable of doing that,” he added.
Former British and Irish Lions playmaker Townsend made 13 changes for the Romania win giving gametime to some fringe players.
Former captain and flanker Hamish Watson, scrum-half Ali Price and No 8 Matt Fagerson would have given him food for thought with their performances before selecting his side for the showdown at a sold-out Stade de France next weekend.
“To be given the opportunity you could see how much they wanted to grab it,” Townsend said.
“It’s been a tough time for a lot of these players to not play.
“I’m really pleased with the level of competition we have. Whoever goes out next week, we’ll be confident that they have the ability to get the job done,” he added.