Gregor Townsend said a recent recce trip to World Cup host nation Japan had left him “amazed” by the rugby buzz building in the land of the rising sun and predicted a “unique” tournament.
The Scotland coach, who named his initial extended training squad yesterday, was in Yokohama, where they will open their campaign against Ireland on 22 September, at the end of last month and was hugely impressed with what he witnessed.
As well as planning for a tournament which will also see the Scots face Samoa, Russia and the hosts in a potentially thrilling Pool A finale, Townsend also spent some time coaching Japanese schoolchildren.
“There were a couple of strands from that trip. One was just getting used to the hotels, the training venues, the distance between places, the challenges that travel times will involve,” he said. “And getting a feel for the country as well and how they are getting behind the tournament.
“There was also an opportunity to watch Japan. I watched the [Japanese Super Rugby team] Sunwolves play the Hurricanes on the Friday night in front of a sell-out crowd and the following day Japan played the Hurricanes B team. It was good to see where they are with their preparations. They will be a huge challenge, but we will have three big challenges before we play Japan.”
Growing World Cup fever in the country was evidenced earlier this year by the regular sight of a number of Japanese journalists attending Scotland’s Six Nations pre-match press conferences.
“I was also there 18 months ago and went to a top league game and was amazed that 15,000 people were watching a mid-table team,” added Townsend. “Then [last month] seeing a sell-out crowd for the Sunwolves and a huge crowd for a game that was not advertised, they are going to be massively behind the World Cup.”