GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND – Japan coach Eddie Jones refused to blame a short turnaround for his side’s second-half collapse against Scotland at the Rugby World Cup.
While Wednesday’s match was Scotland’s first of the tournament, Japan had only four days to recover from its shock 34-32 win against South Africa on Saturday, in what was a highly physical and draining encounter.
“I said I wasn’t going to use that as an excuse and I won’t. They scored 33 points to our (three) in the second half,” said Jones, although he did concede his players lacked a bit of sharpness.
“You need a six-day turnaround (to recover) but that’s not the case (here). You’ve got to accept it and suck it up. We play a high-energy game so the boys need a bit of a break now.”
Japan has 10 days off until its next Pool B game against Samoa at Milton Keynes.
Trailing Scotland only 12-7 at the interval, Jones’ side was blown away after the break as Scotland ran in five tries.
“I did feel they were tired in the second half, I thought we had them at halftime if I’m honest,” Scotland scrumhalf Greig Laidlaw said. “They were starting to blow and we were putting them under pressure, we felt as if we had them fitness-wise.”
Scotland’s physical edge started to show in the latter stages of the first half, when the Scottish line held firm against several Japan attacks.
“They were quite good in the tackle and slowed our team down; we’re not a quick team so we rely on quick ball,” Jones said. “They played well, they deserved to win today. We kept running, we weren’t just good enough.”
Japan needs a long rest now, because Samoa will be a bruising match.
No. 8 Amanaki Mafi could be a doubt for that match, and it will be a big blow for Japan if he misses out. After scoring Japan’s only try with a strong driving run in the 15th minute, he was taken off on a stretcher early in the second half after receiving treatment on the field for several minutes.
“He’s at the hospital now getting checked out. He dislocated his hip eight months ago and made an incredible recovery. We hope it’s not something similar,” Jones said. “He’s a rare talent. Two years ago, he was playing second-division rugby. He’s only played five top-level league games in Japan. He was a big loss for us, because he was denting the Scotland defense.”
Now it’s Scotland’s turn for a short turnaround, with the United States next up in Leeds on Sunday.
“The four-day turnaround will be difficult and to be fair I thought Japan found that difficult. We’re in that position now,” Scotland coach Vern Cotter said. “We’ve got to recover and regenerate for that. I’m sure there’ll be some bumps and bruises. We’ll have to look at that tomorrow and then make a (team) decision.”