Japan players train ready for match against Scotland on Wednesday (September 23). Coach Eddie Jones says his team want to prove their win against South Africa was no fluke.
GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND, UK (SEPTEMBER 22, 2015)(REUTERS) – Japan are well prepared, fitter and less pressured than Scotland said head coach Eddie Jones on Tuesday (September 22) as his team seek to win against Scotland, having already beaten South Africa.
Japan produced a major upset by beating the Springboks 34-32 with a late try. Now they take on Scotland, playing their opening match of the Rugby World Cup, at Gloucester’s Kingsholm ground on Wednesday (September 23).
The spirit and manner of Japan’s win have won them many new fans, who will be cheering them on, but bookmakers expect Scotland to win the Pool B clash.
Nevertheless Japan have moved above Scotland in the latest world rankings and Japan head coach Eddie Jones wants to prove their win against South Africa was not a freak result.
“I don’t think you get any bonus points for rankings tomorrow. When we start the game we’re both on the same ranking,” Jones told reporters at his news conference on Tuesday.
“Are we favourites? Well if you read most of the papers we’re not. You know, most of the people you talk to still think it was a fluke we beat South Africa so this is a great chance to show that it wasn’t and that we can really front up as a serious rugby nation.
“As Scotland is coming into it on a perfect preparation. They’ve had probably two and a half weeks since their last game; they’ll come in absolutely 100 percent. We’re coming in off a four day turnaround so it’s a really great chance for us to show we’re a serious rugby nation and that’s we’re looking for. So whether that makes us favourites or not I’m not sure.”
Much has been made of the fact that Japan have just four days turnaround between their South Africa and Scotland matches, but Jones has already stated his players have known about this tight schedule for two years, and they have trained for it.
“Physically I think we’re pretty good. We’ve practised this a few times over the last two or three years of four-day turnarounds so the players are accustomed to it,” Jones said. “We’ve obviously got a few knocks and bruises as you do when you play against the Springboks. Mentally, look it’s hard for the players; when you’ve played a big game it’s always hard to come back down but I think their focus is pretty good. We had a good meeting today. The players’ minds seem to be in the right place but we’ll know at 2:30 tomorrow.”
Scotland have made it to the semi-final stage once before, but that was more than two decades ago. In the previous tournament they failed to make it beyond the group stage and they finished last in this year’s Six Nations.
There are only a handful of players in the current Scotland squad that played in the 2011 tournament, but that could prove to be a blessing.
The team is now packed with fresh talent, including fullback Stuart Hogg, centre Mark Bennett and flyhalf Finn Russell, as well as a host of foreign imports brought in by Kiwi coach Vern Cotter.
Jones is convinced that Japan will win if the scores are even at halftime. He says the Japanese are fitter, and all the pressure will be on Scotland.
“If you look at Scotland’s scoring profile, they’re very heavily a first-half scoring team,” he said. “They get outscored consistently in the second half so we know we’re a fit team. So if we can stick with them for the first 30 minutes and we’re in the game at halftime we’ll win the game because we’ll run them off their feet.
“So for Japan to challenge Scotland in terms of where they are in world rugby it’s significant pressure on Scotland. It’s a pressure on world rugby. So all the pressure is on Scotland. We can go in free and easy, play our rugby and enjoy the game and that’s what we intend to do; get out there and play our game. If we’re good enough we’ll win, if we’re not good enough we won’t win.”
Jones hopes local fans will get behind Japan, and English people across the country back them against the Scots.
“The crucial part of any game in Gloucester; you know, Gloucester is one of the great spiritual homes of rugby isn’t it?” Jones said. “You’ve got the forest, what’s the forest called? Forest of Dean; isn’t that one of the great rugby areas of the world?
“People in Gloucester know their rugby so hopefully we’ll get a lot of support from the local crowd; they normally wear red and white so they can wear red and white tomorrow and support us and we know the English don’t like the Scottish so it’s another bonus for us.”
In previous meetings between the sides, Scotland have been able to dominate physically and in 2004 they ran in 14 tries against the Japanese in a 100-8 victory.
But Eddie Jones has trained his players in ways to tackle taller players, and Scotland may struggle like the South Africans.
Team: 1-Alasdair Dickinson, 2-Ross Ford, 3-Willem Nel, 4-Grant Gilchrist, 5-Jonny Gray, 6-Ryan Wilson, 7-John Hardie, 8-David Denton; 9-Greig Laidlaw, 10-Finn Russell, 11-Sean Lamont, 12-Matt Scott, 13-Mark Bennett, 14-Tommy Seymour, 15-Stuart Hogg
Replacements: 16-Fraser Brown, 17-Ryan Grant, 18-Jon Welsh, 19-Richie Gray, 20-Josh Strauss, 21-Henry Pyrgos, 22-Peter Horne, 23-Sean Maitland
Japan squad to face Scotland in their Rugby World Cup Pool B match:
Japan: 1-Keita Inagaki, 2-Shota Horie, 3-Hiroshi Yamashita, 4-Luke Thompson, 5-Justin Ives, 6-Michael Leitch(captain), 7-Michael Broadhurst, 8-Amanaki Mafi, 9-Fumiaki Tanaka, 10- Harumichi Tatekawa, 11-Kenki Fukuoka, 12-Yu Tamura, 13-Male Sa’u, 14-Kotaro Matsushima, 15-Ayumu Goromaru
Replacements: 16-Takeshi Kizu, 17-Masataka Mikami, 18-Kensuke Hatakeyama, 19-Shinya Makabe, 20-Shoji Ito, 21-Hendrik Tui, 22-Atsushi Hiwasa, 23-Karne Hesketh