Scotland stutter to victory but Andy Robinson ready for Argentina

SCOTLAND coach Andy Robinson tried to put a gloss on an uninspiring 24-5 win last night and insisted that, despite the team's inability to put away the Japan Select, his team were in good shape to take on Argentina in coming weeks.

• John Barclay touches down for one of Scotland's four tries against a Japan Select at Murrayfield last night. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The game was no startling advert for a Scotland team that leaves for South America on Friday, it having struggled against Japan's second team, but Robinson placed the performance in the context of his build-up to the two-Test tour.

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The squad had trained in the morning, which they would not usually do on a match-day, in order to push their fitness, and they were instructed not to kick the ball for the first 20 minutes which contributed to the game feeling like a leftover from the weekend's Emirates Airlines Edinburgh Sevens tournament.

They finished four good tries and, although the crowd of just over 8,000 expected many more, Robinson insisted that was a good return at this stage in their build-up.

He said: "It was a very good exercise, exactly what we need at this stage. The guys have been training hard, pretty intense, and we wanted to do specific things tonight, which was why I told them not to kick for the first 20 minutes. We wanted them to develop running off ten (stand-off] and work on lines, and there might have been space elsewhere but that wasn't what we were looking at tonight.

"The contact area was a good lesson for us. The Japanese tackled very well, they went low and we weren't able to stay on our feet, and we off-loaded to them sometimes which was sloppy.

"Scott MacLeod got through and got tackled close to the line and we saw a bit of white-line fever, like we saw in the Italy game, and that's something we need to correct, but John Barclay's lines out wide were very good. But we are trying things. It wasn't a full-on Test match and overall I'm pleased, particularly with the simplicity of the first try.

"We stopped going forward at the breakdown after that which was why we got turned over, but we managed to improve that in the second half."

He accepted that the lack of a finish to a plentiful supply of possession, something that has dogged his fledgling tenure as Scotland coach, remained an issue, but remains confident of progress.

Robinson is still unsure of whether he will have captain Chris Cusiter with him in Argentina, and last night question-marks were raised over the involvement of Richie Vernon, who is already on stand-by to cover Alan MacDonald, the Edinburgh flanker who is nursing an abdominal injury.

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Vernon suffered a shoulder/neck injury in training and is going for further tests today to ascertain how severe the damage is. Richie Gray, the 6ft 9in lock from Glasgow, also failed to take to the field last night as he went down with a sickness bug, but Robinson is confident he will be fit to board the plane on Friday.

Match report

• Scotland XV 24 - 5 Japan Select: Scotland running on empty as Japan go down fighting

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