GLOUCESTER, England (Reuters) - Scotland will need to kick well and play a clever tactical game if they are to overcome crowd favourites Japan in the Rugby World Cup Pool B clash on Wednesday, said former Scotland scrum half Mike Blair.
“I think the way to beat this Japanese team is to put pressure on them in their own third. Kicking to the corners, making them have to exit, rather than a free-flowing loose game,” Blair, who has won 85 caps and played in three World Cups for Scotland, told Reuters.
“The main thing is not making things easy for Japan, and that means making them play in their third of the pitch.”
Japan stunned the rugby world by beating twice winners South Africa in their opening match but Blair said Scotland would be well prepared.
“The way they (Japan) played against South Africa has added a bit of extra spice to it, but it’s more from an outsiders point of view,” he said.
“I think the Scottish team have always though this is going to be a very important game for them.”
Blair picked out Japan captain and flanker Michael Leitch, a tryscorer against South Africa, and barnstorming number eight Amanaki Mafi whose impact off the bench rumbled the Springboks, as the dangermen for the Brave Blossoms.
“Mafi is a really powerful player and will get go forward for them,” Blair said. “The back-row battle going to be really interesting.”
While Japan’s exertions on Saturday will mean player fatigue, the Scots have not played since their final warm-up game against France more than two weeks ago.
“I think it will balance out the fact that the Japanese might be a little bit tired at having had only the four-day break but Scotland will be a little bit rusty as well,” said Blair, who predicted Scotland would win by 11 points.
Editing by Ed Osmond