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Johnson sees a tougher challenge

Shell-shocked Scotland did not hang around King's Park after their 27-17 defeat by Samoa, rushing back to their hotel to lick their wounds and try to regroup before taking on the even tougher challenge of South Africa next week.

The rebuilding is going to have to include at least some fresh players, with interim head coach Scott Johnson revealing later that three players are giving him major injury worries and may have to head home.

Hooker Pat MacArthur's debut lasted only two minutes before he hobbled off with a damaged knee. Kelly Brown, the captain and flanker, went off at half-time with an injured ankle while prop Euan Murray pulled a hamstring late in the game.

The physical trauma was matched by the mental anguish of watching the Scotland side simply fail to match the Samoans in the one-to-one confrontations.

Johnson said: "I'm not embarrassed, that is not the right word, but I am disappointed by the fact that it was a Test match and you have to win the contact battles to win a Test. We didn't. It is a collision problem, there was some great defence but all their tries came on the back of one-on-one tackles that were missed.

"There was nothing else - the last try, one-on-one missed tackle; the early tries, bad positioning or one-on-one missed tackles. If you lose them against a side like that who can score, you are in trouble. They are behind your line and you are in trouble.

"You have to acknowledge what you need to do. You can't hide from the fact that to play at this level you have to win the collisions with or without the ball. We were not good enough in that area and were punished. In Test matches that is what happens."

Johnson did find a little solace in the number of new caps - by the end all six uncapped players in the 23 had been used - and reminded supporters that in 1998 England went to Australia and New Zealand with a raw team that got hammered. Five years later they were winning the Rugby World Cup.

He added: "Careers start in funny ways; that was a big test for them tonight but it was good for that. I don't think it was a step back from the Six Nations, it was a different team, a different situation we were in, they are not comparable."

Greig Laidlaw, who took over as captain, added: "For the players, it was the opening exchanges that destroyed them. The first 20 minutes killed us, we gave them two easy scores and played poorly as a team and that has cost us dearly. We knew it was coming but did not deal with it."


From Belfast Telegraph