The damage from Scotland’s 27-3 humiliation to Ireland in the opening Rugby World Cup game has become as much physical as mental with Ali Price joining Hamish Watson on a flight back home.
The scrum-half, a second half replacement for Greig Laidlaw on Sunday, was seen on crutches at Shinagawa Station in Tokyo on Monday as the Scots boarded the Shinkansen bullet train for Kobe, their base for nearly two weeks when they play Samoa in the 30,000-seater Kobe Misaki Stadium next Monday.
On arrival in Kobe the Scots confirmed Price’s foot injury, but there were suggestions that it might not be as serious as the knee injury suffered by Watson, who was told he was heading back to Scotland even before the team left for Kobe.
But an X-ray on arrival in the southernmost of Scotland’s venues for this World Cup confirmed that Price will take no further part in the tournament and will join Watson on the journey home.
Henry Pyrgos, the 26-times capped Edinburgh scrum-half and a veteran of Scotland’s last campaign in 2015 in England, is now on his way out to Japan to replace Price. Magnus Bradbury had already been in Japan as emergency cover for Jamie Ritchie and he will stay out as Watson’s squad replacement.
“We’re disappointed for Ali to have to return home so early in the tournament,” said head coach Gregor Townsend.
“Both Ali and Hamish had invested a lot of effort into being in their best physical shape for the world cup and it’s a shame they’ve only been involved in one game.
“However, we have a lot of belief in our wider group and the two new players who have been given this opportunity.”
Two injuries in the very first game in Japan – and especially one with such a demoralising result – contrasts sharply with 2015, when the Scots got through the entire tournament with just one player having to withdraw.
That was lock Grant Gilchrist, who tore a groin muscle in the second gane against the USA, and was replaced by Blair Cowan. The Scottish party went all the way to the quarter-finals with no further casualties.
One by-product of Price’s exit is that it’s now likely former Howe of Fife scrum-half George Horne will get an extended chance as the back-up to Greig Laidlaw.
The 24-year-old, a former pupil at Bell Baxter HS and Strathallan School and brother of 43-times capped centre Peter, has seven caps and three tries for his country, including one in the last warm-up game before Japan against Georgia at Murrayfield.
But there have been growing calls for the livewire scrum-half to get more opportunities in the national team after some sparkling performances for the Glasgow Warriors, for whom he has scored 22 tries in just 42 appearances (19 of which have been starting the game).
Scotland had a second recovery day in Kobe yesterday without training. They resume preparations in nearby Miki today.