Rugby World Cup 2015

Fit Japan ready for Scots

Japan's full-back Ayumu Goromaru during training. He played a critical role in the upset 34-32 win over South Africa, scoring a try, two conversions and kicking five penalties for a game-high 24 points.
Japan's full-back Ayumu Goromaru during training. He played a critical role in the upset 34-32 win over South Africa, scoring a try, two conversions and kicking five penalties for a game-high 24 points.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

While they're fatigued after shocking Boks, Jones fancies chances if team get strong start

GLOUCESTER (England) • Eddie Jones believes beating Scotland today will be an even tougher task than toppling two-time champions South Africa, because Japan have had so little time to recover from their Rugby World Cup win over the Springboks.

But the Cherry Blossoms' coach has backed his players, who he reckons are the fittest in the tournament, to spring another surprise.

The Japan squad have had only four days to recover from their 34-32 victory on Saturday, while Scotland go into their first World Cup game fresh.

However, Jones predicts that if his side keep the game close for half an hour, they will win.

"Scotland is going to be a much more difficult game because they are fresh," Jones said. "And when you've played a pretty good game, the next game is always tough.

"The start is super-important. You look at Scotland's record over the last 15 games and unless they get ahead early, then they struggle to win a game of rugby.

"We have to make sure we score some points early in the game. And if we are in the game in the first 30 minutes, I reckon we will win it."

Jones also took umbrage with Scotland's coach, Vern Cotter, who has since apologised, for suggesting Japan might "tank" against South Africa to save themselves for his side.

"It was interesting that the Scotland coach said that we were going to tank the first game," he said.

"But we have always taken the view that you go to the World Cup and you play your best team in every game.

"We don't have the luxury of playing a second team. And to suggest that we were going save ourselves for Scotland is unusual thinking."

Japan went all out and delivered the biggest shock in Rugby World Cup history. That has lifted them two places to 11th - one above Scotland, who set a record-scoring 15 tries against the Brave Blossoms 11 years ago. Cotter, however, has insisted that he did not see anything that he would not have expected from Japan.

"Seeing that result has made the guys sit up and certainly take notice, and there will be no complacency from us going into this game," he told The Telegraph.

"But it didn't change our assessment of Japan, it just reinforced what we already thought."

He has made only three alterations to the starting XV that played France in Scotland's final warm-up game as he seeks to maintain the country's 100 per cent record against Japan.

Japan and Scotland have met four times - twice in World Cups - with the Scots winning every time.

Stuart Hogg replaces Sean Maitland at full-back, Grant Gilchrist edges out Richie Gray in the second row, while Sean Lamont wins his battle with Tim Visser for the left-wing spot for his 98th cap.

Japan have made half a dozen changes to their starting XV, with the most significant being Harumichi Tatekawa coming in at fly-half because Kosei Ono has a groin strain. But there is no place for Karne Hesketh despite his last-second try against South Africa.

"Scotland are going to maul, so it's probably not going to be a pretty game," said Jones, who is due to step down as Japan coach after this tournament and was on Monday confirmed as the new coach of South African Super Rugby side the Stormers.

"We are going to make sure we front physically in those set pieces and if we do that, we are going to put ourselves in with a shout."


Pool B: Scotland v Japan
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2015, with the headline 'FIT JAPAN READY FOR SCOTS'. Print Edition | Subscribe