ASSISTANT coach Matt Taylor has shrugged off suggestions that Scotland are under extra pressure as they prepare to face World Cup shock-troops Japan.
The Brave Blossoms put on a cavalier show as they stunned the world with Saturday’s barely-believable 34-32 win over South Africa.
It was the Asian champions’ first victory at a World Cup since 1991 and left the two-time former winners reeling.
And it has now turned the spotlight on the Scots. A bumper TV audience is expected to join a sell-out Kingsholm crowd on Wednesday in anticipation of Eddie Jones’ men repeating their Springboks success.
Dozens of Japanese journalists have flown in to Gloucester while media personnel from other far-flung spots across the globe have also hurriedly made their way to the West Country in case lightning strikes twice.
But Taylor insists Scotland have not let the hype surrounding the game affect their preparation as they look forward to finally getting their tournament underway.
He said: “I wouldn’t say we are under any extra pressure. We’re just looking forward to the opportunity.
“For us, we have been watching all these other games while we’re one of the last ones to play. We’re pretty excited.
“The guys are looking forward to putting all their hard work over the last couple of years and in particular, the last two months together, into a performance that the country can be proud of.”
Scotland’s South African-born prop WP Nel, meanwhile, insists he is not out to avenge the Springboks defeat on behalf of his compatriots.
The 29-year-old hails from the Northern Cape and only qualified for his adopted nation last month after spending three years with Edinburgh.
But he says Japan’s victory - already widely accepted as the biggest upset in the history of rugby - has not featured into his thinking.
Speaking at the final press conference ahead of the Scots’ opening Pool B clash in Gloucester, the tighthead said: “I don’t think there are scores to settle. I’m playing for my Scotland team so there are no extra emotions.
“It’s just a game I want to win.
“It’s not about what happened at the weekend. Tomorrow is just about two teams that want to win.”
Japan head coach Jones - who revealed on Monday that he was quitting his post after the tournament, ironically to move to South Africa after agreeing a deal with the Cape Town-based Stormers - is famed for his mind-games and has already taken aim at Scotland.
After insisting the opening half an hour will be crucial, he claimed: “If you look at the Scots’ record over the last 15 years, you’ll see that unless they get a lead, they struggle to win matches.”
But Taylor shot back: “That’s something that he believes in. I suppose everyone has opinions on how games go. But usually by the end of the 80 minutes the team that is ahead wins the game - rather than who’s ahead after 30 minutes.
“We’ll be concentrating on making sure we’re ahead at the 80th minute.”
Perhaps the biggest factor going in Scotland’s favour is the four-day turnaround between Japan’s first and second matches.
Jones has made six changes - including two positional switches - but Taylor is confident the Scots can handle whatever their opponents throw at them.
The Scottish defensive coach said: “When we look right across their backline - nine, 10, 14, 15 - they are exceptional players and our guys know that. We will have to be at the top of our game defensively.
“But we are confident we can do that job. We have prepared exceptionally well. We understand some of their patterns but we won’t be sitting there watching them play. We’ll be going at them defensively.”
South Africa were expected to dominate Japan at the set-piece but were caught out as the Brave Blossoms held their own at scrum and line-out.
However, Nel - who has been brought in by head coach Vern Cotter to add solidity to the Scots’ front row - believes there are weaknesses Scotland can exploit.
“If you closely watch the game, Japan were under pressure in the scrum as well,” he claimed. “I don’t think they had the upper-hand all the time.
“We’ve had a close look at their scrums and we know what they are doing. I think they know what we are doing so it’s going be a nice battle out there tomorrow.”