Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Hodge hopes for encouraging start

Scotland must hit the ground running in their World Cup warm-up clashes and finally put their RBS 6 Nations nightmare to bed, assistant coach Duncan Hodge has said.

Vern Cotter's side suffered a Six Nations whitewash b ut will hope to erase those painful memories when they begin their preparations for the World Cup in England with a Dublin Test against Ireland.

It is the first of four matches, with home-and-away clashes with Italy to follow before Scotland head to Paris to make their final adjustments ahead of their Pool B opener with Japan in Gloucester on September 23.

"Performance is important but playing well and getting some momentum is massively important for the squad leading into the World Cup," Hodge said as the team set off for Ireland from Edinburgh Airport.

"The first 20 minutes against Ireland will be the first time we have been under severe pressure (this summer). After the Six Nations a lot of the guys went back to their club and were put under pressure there.

"But there is a huge step up between the Pro12 and international rugby, so the boys will have to deal with that.

"However, we can't hide behind experimentation. We must try to hit the ground running. We can't afford to waste any time.

"However, we do expect mistakes to be made. We watched Ireland against Wales last week and there were a lot of mistakes made. That's the nature of these pre-season games."

Saturday's fixture will come as welcome relief to Cotter's group after a gruelling two-month training camp.

Scotland are taking around half of their 47-man World Cup training squad with them to Dublin, with the match serving as a first audition for those hoping to make the final 31-strong group for the finals.

"We're excited," said Hodge.

"We've got 47 players who have worked really hard over these last two months and they are desperate to build towards the World Cup.

"Its great that we've had eight weeks with the players and been able to get some messages across. But ultimately games are what you measure yourself on and that's where you can fine-tune your coaching and provide the players with some focus."

With centre Alex Dunbar's chances of making the tournament hanging by a thread as he fights back from knee surgery, Hodge admits he is keeping his fingers crossed Scotland suffer no more injury disasters.

"With only two professional teams we don't have massive resources, say compared to Ireland with the four competitive sides there," he said.

"You don't want to pick up injuries but occasionally they do happen along the way and then give chances to other people, so it can be a double-edged sword."


From Belfast Telegraph