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Alex Spink: Scotland will underestimate Japan at their peril

22 Sep | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Alex Spink: Scotland will underestimate Japan at their peril

The Brave Blossoms' incredible win against South Africa has changed the landscape of Pool B, says the Mirror's rugby union correspondent

A funny thing happened just as the odds makers decided Scotland should be 16-point favourites to beat Japan at the Rugby World Cup on Wednesday.

The world rankings were updated, showing that Japan had leapfrogged one place above Vern Cotter’s outfit to stand 11th in the global order.

Nobody lucky enough to be in Brighton at the weekend was remotely surprised by the news.

In fact, coming away from the Amex on Saturday night, it was hard to imagine there could be 10 teams better than those Brave Blossoms.

It was one of those incredible days.

In fact, scrub that. It was a stand-alone day in the history of the World Cup.

There has never been a result to compare. Nor, arguably, a performance of such daring.

You could have got 66/1 on South Africa, the two-time world champions, losing to Japan, whose last win in the tournament came against Zimbabwe 24 years ago.

The question now is can Japan back it up?

5/1 – Japan to beat Scotland

Given that organisers have scheduled them to play their second game within four days of their first, it is a huge ask.

Scotland have yet to lace a boot in the World Cup. They are coming in fresh and with the confidence of home-and-away wins over Italy and an extremely honourable defeat to France in Paris.

But this is also a team that finished rock bottom of the Six Nations – below Italy – after losing all five of its matches and failed to get out of its pool at the last World Cup.

Yes, Scotland have won all four of their previous encounters with Japan, including World Cup pool matches in 1991 and 2003.

But last Saturday’s result has completely changed the landscape of this pool and reset the ambitions of its participating teams.

Before Japan’s astonishing 34-32 triumph, everybody was in agreement that the Springboks would top the pool and Scotland would play Samoa on the final weekend of group games to decide who advances as runners-up.

Not any more they’re not.

Eddie Jones’ team are now demanding of themselves that they make the quarter-finals, insisting they cannot leave the tournament as “one-hit wonders”.

“We didn’t come here to be a splash in the pond, we want to make a go at this World Cup,” was how Jones put it.

“We have two objectives: reach the quarter-finals and be team of the tournament.”

Having taken both Australia (2003) and South Africa (2007) to World Cup finals, the Scots will dismiss the coach’s words at their peril.

5/6 (-16.5) – Scotland to beat Japan

Here is a guy who said on the eve of the South Africa game: “We’ve got a scrum that can give the Springboks trouble. Tomorrow could be a day to remember for Japanese rugby.”

Jones is confident the Brave Blossoms – who have made six changes – are fit enough to play for the second time in a week.

The key to success for them, he believes, is to get up on the scoreboard early as it will undermine fragile tartan belief.

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READ: Mike Tindall: England should be happy with no-frills win on thrilling opening weekend