IT WAS a sober-looking coach and captain who faced the media after yesterday’s 45-10 victory over Japan but at least “Stern” Vern Cotter had five precious points in his pocket from Scotland’s opening match.
To be picky, he also has plenty to work on before the Scots face the USA on Sunday.
Scotland scored five tries and conceded just one but it could have been more, especially as winger Tommy Seymour’s interception try was probably a 14-point turnaround for the Scots, who were under severe pressure at the time.
While Cotter’s Japanese counter-part Eddie Jones refused to blame fatigue on his team’s late collapse, he might have been the only one Kingsholm Stadium to do so. Japan’s defence was rock solid for sixty-odd minutes but the dam finally broke in the final 20 minutes after Japan had matched the Scots blow for blow.
Captain Greig Laidlaw said: “I did feel they were tiring. I felt we had them at half-time, to be honest. Credit to them for holding out. They were starting to blow and we were putting them under pressure.
“The message from Vern [at half-time] was ‘don’t panic, hold the ball’. We had them fitness wise. This is the fittest Scotland team I’ve seen for a long, long time. We believe we’re in a good place, fitness-wise.”
While Japan struggled with a four-day turnaround from their historic win over South Africa, it is now Scotland’s turn to test their strength and conditioning as they take on the American Eagles in Leeds on Sunday.
If yesterday’s match is anything to go by, Cotter will make a few changes to his team in an attempt to freshen things up and give some game time to the players who missed out on yesterday’s 23-man squad.
“The four-day turnaround will be tough,” said the Kiwi. “I think Japan found it hard, we’re in that situation now. We will be focusing on recovering, regenerating energy levels, get ready for a physical team who have had a week to prepare. We will need the 31 players. There are still 31 standing, ready to put their hands up for this weekend. Tomorrow I’m sure we’ll have some bumps and bruises we haven’t seen today. We’ll make decisions based on that.”
As for the match itself, Cotter declared himself satisfied, but he must be concerned at “losing” the middle section of the match, even if Japan didn’t make their superiority count on the scoreboard.
“They are a good team and they were getting over the advantage line,” Cotter conceded. “They are very powerful but good on their feet as well. They move the ball quickly from zone to zone.
“We found ourselves getting knocked back on our feet in the first half. So it was nice to get them four or five times close to our line and not let them score. That’s a good start, we’re happy with the determination we showed.”
Now the Scots have just three days to prepare for the very different, far more muscular approach of the Americans.