There’s not a doubt in Chris Harris’ mind that Sunday’s Guinness Six Nations game against France in Paris will go ahead – because for him there can’t be any.
“It’s a weird one,” he admitted. “But there’s not been any doubt in my mind this game is going ahead.
“That might just be me, I don’t know. But that’s just been my focus. I’m not thinking about anything else other than going over to France and playing rugby.
“I’m not worried about it not going ahead. If you do that, then you won’t prepare properly.
“I would be pretty upset if we don’t play. I want to play for my country, so I’d be pretty devastated on a personal level.
“But again, if it’s not safe to play, it’s not safe, and if I have to go back to Gloucester and I’m not allowed to come back up if the game’s the following week, that’s out of my hands.
“We’ve just got to crack on and focus on the week, not let that be a distraction.”
A similar vibe to Japan
There is a similar vibe to the week before Scotland’s final game of the last World Cup against Japan. Then, Typhoon Hagibis was blowing through Tokyo and the crucial contest in Yokohama was in doubt right up until the morning of the game.
“Yeah, I suppose it was the same when we played Japan,” recalled Harris. “I was still preparing and focusing on my role in that game then as well.
“That was bizarre because it was really torrential the day before the game. Then, on the day of the game, the sun was shining.”
A third record of disappointment erased?
In Paris Scotland are attempting to knock off the third of their long disappointments on away trips in successive games. Wales fell at Llanelli for the first time since 2002, England were beaten at Twickenham for the first time since 1983, and now there’s Paris, where the Scots last won in 1999.
“It’s the confidence and belief you take from those results,” said Harris “You think to yourself: “we can do this”.
‘I’ve never actually played in Paris, so I don’t know what it’s like. But we’re playing in empty stadiums at the moment, it’s probably going to be similar to playing at all the rest.
“We are full of confidence, and we all still believe that we can win the Championship. “We’re obviously not focusing too far ahead.
“But if we can beat France, we’ve then got two home games to come. So it’s a good opportunity for us.”
No unknowns in the French squad
France will be without 11 players due to Covid-19 on Sunday if it goes ahead. Key men like Antoine Dupont and captain Charles Ollivon will be missed, but those coming in are not unknown to the Scots, says Harris.
“France have a defensive system, an attacking structure and a style of play,” he pointed out. “So we just look at that and how we deal with their threats and the opportunities that are there for us.
“They’re not going to be unknown players – this is international rugby. And we’re not going to overdo it by looking too much at individuals.
“But we know their style of play and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”
No new positive tests in French camp
There were no further positive tests among the French camp on Tuesday, leaving them with 11 players and four members of the coaching staff affected by outbreak.
None of the players who tested positive will be available on Sunday if the game is played, even if some will have completed the isolation period.
Nonetheless France’s training schedule has been badly disrupted. The Six Nations’ Testing Oversight Group is to meet on Wednesday night to decide if Sunday’s match should be postponed.
Their statement that the match should be rescheduled as soon as possible – probably next week – brought a strident response from Scottish Rugby.
The Scots stand to lose as many as 11 English-based players as next week falls outwith international player release protocols.
No fans at Murrayfield this Six Nations season
In the meantime Scottish Rugby confirmed the two remaining home games in the championship against Ireland (March 14) and Italy (March 20) will be played behind closed doors.
This follows the announcement from the Scottish Government of a return to the tier system against Covid-19 in April. The governing body held off for some weeks before making what seemed an inevitable decision, but have now conceded that fans will not be allowed into Murrayfield for this season.