Rugby World Cup: Japan ready to do it all again against Scotland

Will the Brave Blossoms be able to reach the same heights as they did against South Africa when they face the Scots?

Japan rugby team
(Image credit: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty)

By Gavin Mortimer

Eddie Jones is one of rugby's canniest coaches. The Aussie is known also for being awkward, argumentative and amusing, able to wind up opponents at will. But Jones is also a master of the coaching craft, able to create winning sides out of nothing, as he proved on Saturday when Japan beat South Africa in the greatest shock in rugby history.

Now it's Scotland's turn to face the might of the Japanese, and as was the case on Saturday the 'Brave Blossoms' go into the match as underdogs.

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It's Scotland's first game of the tournament and, as they demonstrated earlier in the month in a warm-up Test against France, the Scots are a balanced and well-organised side. So are Japan, but can they really lift themselves four days after the greatest match in their history? The 34-32 victory over the Springboks was not only physically draining, it must have emptied the Japanese players emotionally and now they must do it all over again at Kingsholm in Gloucester.

Jones, however, believes that if Japan can absorb the inevitable early Scottish pressure then there's no reason why they can't make it two wins from two. "The start is super-important," said Jones. "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."

Asked about whether he believed his squad will be able to touch such heights again, Jones replied: "When you've played a pretty good game, the next game is always tough. To use a cricket analogy, it's like scoring a 100 and then in the next innings you come out and you have to work hard again."

Jones will have no problem motivating his side, which shows six changes to the XV that started against South Africa. All he need do is remind them of what Scotland coach Vern Cotter said prior to Japan's clash with South Africa. Cotter claimed Jones' boys would likely 'tank', saving themselves instead for Scotland.

"It was interesting that the Scotland coach said that we were going to tank the first game," mused Jones, adding with a rueful smile: "If we tanked it was a good performance."

Cotter has since apologised for suggesting Japan wouldn't try against South Africa, but Jones was in no mood to let the slight lie. "We don't have the luxury of playing a second team," he told reporters. "And to suggest that we were going save ourselves for Scotland is unusual thinking."

Jones coached Australia to the 2003 World Cup final, where they lost to Clive Woodward's England, so having been involved with the so-called top nations, he knows how the system works for the smaller nations. "When you're at the bottom of the food chain you take what you get," he said, when asked about the four day turnaround for Japan. "The little fish at the bottom don't worry about what they eat, they just eat it. You can't expect the big countries in the world to play a four-day turnaround. You've just got to accept it and get on with it."

Jones also dismissed the notion that Scotland are favourites, despite the fact they've won all four previous encounters between the two sides. "People still think it was a fluke that we beat South Africa, so this is a great chance to prove that is wasn't," he said. Yes, he agreed, the Scots are bigger, but then so were South Africa. "Are we fitter?" he asked rhetorically. "Hell, yes. We'll run their legs off."

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