Mike Blair: Fully Focused
It'll be a quick turnaround between Scotland's matches against Russia and Japan, so we asked Assistant Coach Mike Blair how the squad and coaching team are preparing.
Presumably, as coaches, you’re having to prepare for two Tests at the same time – what with the short turnaround between Russia and Japan?
“It’s a challenge. Russia first up is what the focus is on, but at the same time we are aware we’ve got that four-day turnaround straight after.
“How we look after the players, the volume of training we do, the direction in which we take training, what we focus on, is going to be really important.
“It should be seamless for the players. We don’t want to add undue stress on to them in that period when they are going to have to recover quickly.
“Some guys will have to back up because of the numbers in the squad and the make-up of the squad we’ve got. So looking after them, preparing them to be able to perform from a physical point of view is going to be really important.”
Do you think it’s unfair?
“A lot of teams have got it in this World Cup, where there’s a four or five-day turnaround. That’s how the tournament was structured and we’ve known that for a long time, so we’ve had that in our minds.
“It doesn’t keep everyone on a level playing field but that’s what happens. We’ll deal with it.”
What about the back-row – how they will you manage the possibility of one having to start two games in such a short time:
“It’s going to be a challenge but you look at those players who played on Monday night (against Samoa) and they are exceptional. ‘Maggy’ [Magnus Bradbury] pulled up a little bit with maybe 15 minutes or so to go but he hasn’t played a huge amount of rugby and he looked excellent in that first 65 minutes.
“Blade [Thomson] as well, I believe it’s the first time he’s played 80 minutes in four or five seasons, or something like that. He looked brilliant throughout, and Jamie Ritchie was exceptional as well.
“These are guys who are able to back up games. It’s not the ideal situation and there are potentially other positions it might have to happen in as well, but we are really confident in the ability of these guys to back up.”
How would you assess Japan’s performance – do you think it belies their ‘Tier 2’ status?
“The way they played against Ireland was excellent. Everyone was really impressed with them.
“The way they played showed that we are going to have to be absolutely on top of our game to give them a good game.
“In their opening game against Russia, they were slow in the first 15 to 20 minutes but we were pretty slow as well against Ireland [a game they went to win]. But they have turned that around and are playing with a lot of confidence.”