Captain Greig Laidlaw will consider his Scotland future after Japan denied his team a place in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.
The 34-year-old scrum-half could not inspire the Scots to a Yokohama victory as they slumped 28-21 to the tournament hosts, who go on to face South Africa in the last eight.
World Cup failure can often lead to casualties, and the likes of Laidlaw and coach Gregor Townsend can expect scrutiny.
But while Townsend was vague about his intentions, albeit appearing to indicate he intends to stay at the helm for next year’s Six Nations, Laidlaw was slightly less guarded.
Given his age, it is hardly surprising such a big-tournament disappointment would lead to a moment of reflection.
Laidlaw shed tears once Scotland’s elimination was confirmed, saying: “It’s so difficult. It’s straight after the game. It’s not about me at this moment in time. It’s about the team.”
But Laidlaw will assess over the coming weeks whether there remains life in his international career.
“I’ll go away and take time and have a think and speak to the people I need to speak to, and then see what happens after that,” he said. “But tonight it’s about staying together as a group and for the group to learn why we’re in this situation.”
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) October 13, 2019
Townsend was also asked about his future in the post-match news conference. After two and a half years in charge, the former Glasgow Warriors boss saw hopes of success on the global stage foiled, with Scotland tumbling out in the pool stage for just the second time.
At one stage, Japan were four tries to one ahead of the Scots, and the final margin arguably flattered Townsend’s men, who also lost their opening game to Ireland.
Townsend was asked whether he may have taken the team as far as he could, and responded: “There’s a lot more in this team. Experiences are what make you as a group, and how you react to those experiences.
“That was a unique situation we were in tonight. We knew it was always going to be a challenge given the way Japan were playing and given our turnaround.
“But we had the team and we had the ability at 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.”
Kenki Fukuoka, who was presented with the man-of-the-match award by tennis star Naomi Osaka, grabbed two tries as Scotland were too easily opened up.
Townsend’s assessment of the performance laid bare Scotland’s inadequacies over the 80 minutes.
Townsend said: “In the first half we didn’t get enough possession. And the second half we did have much more possession and the effort the players put in was heroic at times. We had to defend our line, we had to get back upfield, but we just didn’t make the most of our chances.
“It would have been a great comeback win but Japan deserve it today. They played really well in that first 50, 60 [minutes] and they’re a very good team.”
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