GLOUCESTER (England) • Battered giant-killers Japan are now under orders from coach Eddie Jones to beat Samoa to keep alive their hopes of reaching the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.
Jones set the new target after the Brave Blossoms - heroes of a stunning 34-32 win over South Africa - came brutally back to earth with a 45-10 hammering by Scotland in their Pool B match on Wednesday.
Japan scored the game's first try through Amanaki Mafi but trailed 12-7 at half-time. They could not sustain their high-energy game that they used to such great effect against South Africa, as a vibrant second-half display from Scotland produced five tries, including two for centre Mark Bennett.
Jones, who will take over at the South African Super Rugby franchise Western Stormers after the World Cup, would not use Japan's restricted four-day rest from the South Africa win as an excuse.
However, he highlighted the added significance of the Samoan match in Milton Keynes on Oct 3 in his bid to guide the 2019 World Cup hosts to their first appearance in the knockout stages.
"If we can knock Samoa off in 10 days then we have a terrific chance, if we don't then we're cooked," said Jones.
Samoa's match with South Africa tomorrow could also be key to Japan's fortunes.
"The Samoans could come out of the match with the Springboks bruised and battered. That match will be a bit like a Ultimate Fighting Championship fight with a fair bit of Springbok power coming forward at the Samoans," he added.
"Our boys need a break. You read the books on physiology and they say you need six days to recover after exercise like the boys had against the Springboks.
"Of course by that token the games should be spread out more. However, because of TV they aren't. What to do about it?"
Jones, who guided Australia to the 2003 World Cup final and was an adviser to the Springboks side who won the 2007 edition, is also looking to the South Africans to do him a favour.
He needs them to beat both Samoa and Scotland, ensuring the top two places remain wide open going into Japan's final pool game against the United States. Jones was not certain the Scots are capable of beating the Springboks.
"South Africa will really bounce back," said Jones, who believes South African scrum-half Fourie du Preez will be their key man. "I don't think Scotland will get enough set-piece plays against them.
"However, the Scots impressed me, they kept in there and their recovery in defence was excellent."
The Scots, like the Japanese, face having to back up in a matter of days against the United States - who lost their opener last Sunday to Samoa - but captain and Man of the Match Greig Laidlaw said he had no concerns over fatigue taking hold.
"I think this Scottish side is the fittest we have ever been," said Laidlaw. "I believe we are in a good place fitness wise."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
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