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Ollie Smith’s first taste of playing for Scotland at a World Cup has left him craving more after he was blown away by the atmosphere inside the “awesome” Stade Velodrome.
The Scots kicked off the tournament with an 18-3 defeat by South Africa in front of 63,586 people in the Marseille arena a week past Sunday.
Although the result did not go as planned, 23-year-old full-back Smith – the youngest member of the Scotland squad – was delighted to savour his first World Cup outing after replacing Darcy Graham for the closing 15 minutes.
“Playing in the game in Marseille was pretty special,” he told the PA news agency. “It was awesome, probably the coolest stadium I’ve ever played in.
“The atmosphere was mental as well. It was really loud and obviously there were thousands of fans across from Scotland to make it that extra bit special. It definitely whets the appetite for the other games in the tournament.”
The defeat to South Africa means Scotland have no margin for error left if they are to reach the quarter-finals.
Gregor Townsend’s side must win all three of their remaining pool matches against Tonga, Romania and Ireland.
Having been idle last weekend, they will return to action against the Tongans in Nice this Sunday.
“We definitely still believe we can get out the group,” said Smith. “We’ve spoken a lot about how we feel we can do something special at this World Cup.
“We believe we’ve got a good group of players, with good strength in depth, and we feel we can go far in this tournament.
“We know we need to bounce back from last weekend and Tonga is a good opportunity to do that.
“There’s still plenty rugby to be played against Tonga, Romania and Ireland so you never know what can happen.
“We’re still focused on getting out of the group and we’re going to have to win all three with good scorelines to do that.”
While the Scottish players were visibly dejected after failing to do themselves justice against the Boks, Smith feels that having a fortnight between matches – a period which included a few days of downtime with family members early last week – has helped them banish any lingering negativity ahead of facing Tonga.
The squad returned to the training pitch last Thursday and are focused on getting the victories they need against Tonga and Romania to ensure their hopes of progressing remain alive going into what could be a mouth-watering qualification shootout with Ireland in Paris next month.
“The last week has been a nice period to reset,” said the Glasgow back. “It’s now just about focusing on that next job, looking forward to Tonga.
“We’ve reviewed where we went wrong against South Africa and we’re trying to improve for Tonga and Romania. It’s about looking forwards rather than looking back.”
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