2019 Rugby World Cup
More questions than answers as Scotland head home early
Exit: Gregor Townsend (pic: SNS Group)
It takes nearly 13 hours to fly from Japan to the UK but for the Scotland team dumped out of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the journey home will feel endless.
The post mortem into the early exit began almost as soon as the whistle sounded in Yokohama as the host nation completed a famous 28-21 victory to propel themselves into a quarter-final meeting with South Africa.
That examination will continue on the long flight home after the Scots failed to reach the last eight of the tournament for only the second time in their history.
Preparation, personnel, tactics. They will all be questioned in the wake of a first-ever loss to Japan.
Head coach Gregor Townsend has now lost 10 of 22 games against tier one opposition and he can have no complaints about this latest defeat.
Although his players rallied in the second half after turning round 21-7 behind in the make-or-break match, they came off second best by some distance.
A root-and-branch review of what went wrong by SRU chief executive Mark Dodson and his lieutenants will now be the priority and it remains to be seen what changes are deemed appropriate.
The ill-fated campaign threw up more questions than answers. The squad should have had enough quality to qualify from Pool A and the failure to do so won’t be easy to recover from, according to Stuart Hogg.
“It’s given me the kick up the backside that I probably needed to get better, to learn, and I can guarantee every single player in that Scotland team is the same,” he said.
“We were beaten by the better side. We truly believed we were coming here to achieve something special and we’ve come up short and we’re going home a lot earlier than we had planned.
“If we were at our best, we wouldn’t be going home. It’s as simple as that. We can’t afford to make error on error, concede 28 points and expect to win Test matches.
“We can’t keep saying we’ll be better for this experience because we’ve said that before.
“The hard truth is, if we don’t get better, it’s going to be the same situation.
“I don’t think it’s actually kicked in what’s happened. When it does, it will eat away at me for a long, long time. It’s going to hurt. But this is the place we’ve put ourselves in.”
Townsend said: “We had the team and ability and the start of that game to go on and win it by the necessary amount of points. That we didn’t is hugely disappointing and we’ll have to learn from that.
“You don’t get another shot in a World Cup for four years but we’ve got to improve as we hit our next tournament which will be the Six Nations in a few months’ time.”