Gilchrist: Warm-up games crucial for World Cup preparation

Gilchrist: Warm-up games crucial for World Cup preparation

Scotland are back in action next Saturday as the countdown continues to the Rugby World Cup.

Gregor Townsend’s squad play Italy (Sat 29 July, 3.15pm), France (Sat 6 August, 3.15pm) and Georgia (Sat 26 August, 5.30pm) before travelling to France for their first pool match against South Africa on 10 September.

Grant Gilchrist believes these upcoming matches at Scottish Gas Murrayfield will play a crucial role as the team prepare for the World Cup.

He said: “For us to be successful come the World Cup we have to win these warm-up games, that’s what we’re setting out to do.

“If we want to go into that [first pool match against] South Africa and beat them, then we have to treat these games beforehand like proper Test matches, like a Six Nations.

“We’ll give everything in these games to make sure we’re sharp enough to go and beat South Africa in the first round of the World Cup, which is our goal.

“We know how tough the pool is, but we’re also in a stage of our development where we’ve been together now as a pretty settled group for a long time, and we’ve shown in spurts that we can mix it with the best teams in the world.

“We believe that, and we’ve shown it against the teams that we’ll be coming up against. I didn’t play in the Ireland game in the Six Nations, but in the first half we showed that intensity that’s needed to beat Ireland. We weren’t able to do it for 80 minutes.

“A similar story against South Africa [in the 2021 Autumn Tests]; at the 60-minute mark I think we were ahead and we knew what it took to win it. We didn’t quite have enough at that point, and now we’ve been working tirelessly over the last six weeks to make sure we can take the belief forward that we know we can beat these teams.

“We’re not quite there yet, but can we get that growth over the warm-up games so we can do it come the big time? I believe that with this group of players it’s the best chance we have.”

Despite all the pressure to be at Rugby World Cup, the lock says they must remain focussed on playing as a team to ensure they have a succesful series.

He added: “Everyone is desperate to be part of that final squad, obviously, but the best way to go about that individually is to give everything to the team, not to go into individual battles. That’s not going to impress the coaches or anyone at training, making it a one on one.

“It’s about making sure you’re doing your part for the team where you’re giving absolutely everything. That’s all you can ask. I know personally that if I give my absolute all and don’t make the squad then I’ll be able to look myself in the mirror and know that I did everything that I could. I could still be proud of myself. That’s the attitude that the players have to take.

“It’s not nice, obviously. It’s going to be devastating for the guys [who miss out], but that’s the reality that we’re in.”

“I just think this team has been together since 2019 and has been on a bit of a journey.

“I think we’ve got better year on year and we’ve got ourselves to a position where it’s ‘If not now then never’.

“That’s my opinion. We’ve done the work, we’ve had the experiences as a team, good and bad, to shape it, and we now know what we need to do. It’s whether we can do it on the big stage.”

Scotland play Italy (Sat 29 July, 3.15pm), France (Sat 5 Aug, 3.15pm) and then Georgia (Sat 26 Aug, 5.30pm) in The Famous Grouse Nations Series at Scottish Gas Murrayfield. Secure your tickets here.

There are NO Autumn Test fixtures this year, so these games are your last chance to see Scotland men in action on home soil in 2023!

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