Steve Thompson: Scotland provided a timely test - and we passed

The England hooker's exclusive column
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The Independent Online

It might not have been pretty but we are right where we wanted to be. Four games, four wins and we are heading into the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals having come through a very tough group.

It was a case of them or us against Scotland on Saturday and a tough game like that is just what you need at the end of the pool campaign before you head into the knock out stages.

I must admit the occasion got to me a little. It is always special when you play Scotland but during the anthems it really hit me. I have put so much work in over the last four years to get back where I am and being part of such a big game at the World Cup brought it home. It has been a long time coming and I am enjoying every minute. I always love singing the national anthem but it was just that little bit more special on Saturday because the atmosphere was something else. We have played in bigger stadiums and in front of more people but Eden Park that night was immense.

Things obviously didn’t go to plan in the first half. We had done our homework and knew that the Scots would counter ruck hard because that is the way they play but it never felt like they were over-powering us or had us in serious trouble. For us, it was all about getting the points when we could but that didn’t happen. We may have had some good periods but Scotland were more clinical in the 22.

The conditions obviously didn’t help either side. At one stage it looked like we were going to get quite a lot of rain but thankfully it largely held out but the swirling wind was a real problem especially at the lineout. It was with you in one part of the stadium and the other side it would be against you but then suddenly the opposite would be true. Before the match I went all the way around the pitch throwing the ball trying to get a feel for the conditions because we have had the luxury of playing our last three games in doors. Playing outside was going to bring problems but we simply had to adjust and I think we did that. There were a couple of calls that didn’t quite work but considering the conditions I think the lineout worked quite well.

The scrum was also a bit of a lottery to be honest. Fair play to Scotland, they had a good go at us but we had a good go at them too. There were times that we got penalised when we were going forward but there is not a lot you can do because that was just the way it was being managed by the referee. Like the conditions, it’s up to us to deal with that but it was quite hard on the night. If you look at the scrums, a lot of them were spinning around, they weren’t go forwards or backwards but when we did get them where we wanted them, we were able to shove them around a bit.

Steve Thompson writes exclusively for, one of the world’s leading Rugby websites. To read the column in full, visit