Scotland will have a full squad to juggle with as the coaching team weigh up the balance needed to see off Russia with a bonus point on Wednesday to tee up a potentially tumultuous showdown with the invigorated hosts Japan a week on Sunday.
After a few days downtime following the 34-0 win over Samoa on Monday, the squad were back in full training in Kobe today and will move on to Shizuoka, venue for the Russia match, on Sunday afternoon.
Assistant coach Danny Wilson reported that, apart from Allan Dell, who failed a head injury assessment in the first half against Samoa, everyone else was fit.
“Allan’s making good progress, going through the process, we have to go through it stage by stage,” said the forwards coach. “So far so good, but we have a couple more stages for him to go through.
“John Barclay trained today and to date no reaction to that [strained groin], so that’s a positive step.”
Wilson said that Russia’s dogged showing against Ireland the other night has focused minds further that a job needs to be done before the looming showdown with Japan, who face Samoa in Toyota tomorrow.
The Irish notched a 35-0 win over Russia in Kobe on Thursday but it was more laboured than the scoreline suggests.
The Russians didn’t offer much offensively but frustrated the side who were ranked No 1 in the world coming into the tournament for long periods and it wasn’t until the final quarter that the bonus point was sealed.
“We watched the [Ireland v Russia] game last night and we have looked at Russia in a fair bit of detail,” said Wilson. “We’re not seeing past that game at the moment. Obviously in the back of your mind you do need to prepare for a short turnaround to play Japan, but we won’t be taking this first challenge lightly. We know we need to get maximum points out of this game, which will be a challenge in itself, and one we relish.
“We know we have got a challenge based on two games over quite a short period. That is the challenge of a World Cup.
“We have got a good squad with some real quality in it and it is important we manage that well over that short period between games.”
Former Cardiff Blues head coach Wilson is well acquainted with Russia boss Lyn Jones from his time coaching in Wales and is sure the 55-year-old former Test flanker has a few tricks up his sleeve for Wednesday.
“I know Lyn pretty well from my time in Wales. With (Russia assistant coach) Shaun Connor there as well their identity is probably what you expect with Lyn,” said Wilson.
“They are a very good defensive team, their contact area defence is a real handful. Knowing Lyn, he will be heavily involved in coaching that.
“Their kicking game is pretty astute as well so they are probably the areas we need to be fully aware of.
“They have grown throughout the tournament so far and done well. They are a threat and we have got to be right on top of our game to deal with that.
“Lyn is a very clever coach in how he goes about his game plan, so there is lots for us to be aware of. At times they frustrated Ireland and I think they turned them over eight times, and five of those were around the breakdown. So we know what is coming. We have to get the imprint on the game we want.”
Asked who from the Russian team had impressed him particularly, Wilson said: “Their tighthead is playing well and is the anchor of the scrum and you can see that everything revolves around him at scrum-time. He will be a big factor for us in our preparation.”
The tighthead Wilson mentioned is Kirill Gotovtsev, a 32-year-old former freestyle wrestler and bobsleigh brakeman.
Wilson added: “Through the tournament they have a really good pack of forwards, they have prepared well for this and it’s another challenge for us as a forward pack. It’s the same as the Samoa game, they were also big and physical guys. It’s not going to happen from minute one. We are going to need to wear them down.”
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