THERE are, unfortunately all too many sports writers who delude themselves into thinking that professional sports practitioners actually read and digest their musings.

Such fantasists are matched and indeed grossly outnumbered by sports bloggers who think their blethers are remotely influential and who mostly spend their time trolling the said sports writers, due to their own lack of anything approaching insight into sporting issues. (You know who you are, and don’t bother writing because my skin is of the rhino variety after 40-odd years in this trade.)

Only four Scottish sports journalists I personally knew could be acknowledged as having the sort of influence that sports writers and bloggers alike regularly claim to possess – players, coaches and managers listened to them and, yes, made decisions based on their advice. (A fifth Scottish sports journalist, Hugh Dan MacLennan, has vast influence in shinty, but sadly I can’t claim to know him.)

In no order of importance the quartet were Hugh McIlvanney, Jim Rodger, Norman Mair and Bill McLaren. All are now gone to the great press box in the sky but in their living days they made a difference.

Hugh really did have the ear of every legend from Sir Alex Ferguson to Muhammad Ali, and the former sought his advice on many occasions – a lot of their chat consisted of speculation on four-hooved contestants, I can confirm.

While Jim Rodger may not have been the greatest writer, he really did often act as a “fixer” between players, agents and managers – and you have to love a man who called Margaret Thatcher “hen” to her face.

Norman Mair was a Scotland rugby international who was simply the most influential journalist covering rugby that the Scottish game has ever known. One former international player told me that when Norman was in his pomp, he would only believe he had been picked for Scotland if Norman called him to confirm it.

As for the Voice of Rugby himself – his absolutely catalogue-like knowledge of all stratas of the sport in Scotland was legendary, and more than a few Scottish internationalists owed a step up in their career to a word in the right ear from Bill McLaren.

All of which is me leading up to saying that obviously everyone in the Scotland camp must have read my column last Saturday because the national team duly went out and did to Samoa what I suggested – “win at all costs”.

It was also very pleasing to see the way Scotland adapted their tactics and played a much tighter and more physical game that stopped Samoa from playing the way they wanted to. The Scottish control for most of the match was genuinely impressive, and the result was a fair reflection of the score.

And we got that precious bonus point with the fourth try, and what a brilliant piece of refereeing by Pascal Gauzere to act on Ed Fidow’s outrageous knee-low tackle on Sean Maitland. We were owed a referee’s one from the last World Cup and Gauzere delivered it.

I wrote last week about Scotland having to concentrate totally on Samoa and even if the South Sea islanders do us an unlikely favour and beat Japan later today, or at least stop them scoring a bonus point, we will probably still have to beat both Russia and Japan and take five points in each match to qualify for the quarter-finals and that encounter with the All Blacks.

It has probably escaped your notice that the latest results in the World Cup mean that in the IRB Rankings, Scotland have slipped down to ninth and are behind Japan in eighth. There is only a marginal difference in points at present but it shows the extent of Scotland’s task against the host nation a week tomorrow.

That’s why I want to see Scotland take the same approach to beating Russia as they did against Samoa. We know the Bears are big and physical but they simply don’t have the talent in the backs that we do. That’s why it is crucial for the Scottish pack to exert total dominance from the outset. Win sufficient ball and Messrs Laidlaw, Russell and co will do the rest – and yes, we must start with the best XV we can muster and that means Laidlaw and Russell must at least start together. Personally I would love to see Blair Kinghorn and Scott Cummings on from the start, but I will understand if Gregor Townsend operates a safety-first policy and goes with his most experienced side – get the bonus point and then change the personnel if players need a rest.

For again this is an absolute must-win match for Scotland against a side we have never faced in the World Cup. Indeed the last time these two countries met it was a Scotland A side which beat the Bears 49-7 in the IRB Nations Cup in 2009.

It’s a must-win for another reason – a five-point win over Russia would guarantee at least third place in the pool for Scotland as Samoa will not beat both Japan and Ireland, and under the IRB rules at present – they may change – third place gets us into the World Cup in France in 2023.

So Scotland – win at all costs against Russia. That’s ye telt.