AP NEWS

Scotland heading for drama in Yokohama vs. Japan at RWC

September 30, 2019
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Scotland's Finn Russell runs at the Samoan defence during the Rugby World Cup Pool A game at Kobe Misaki Stadium between Scotland and Samoa in Kobe City, Japan, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
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Scotland's Finn Russell runs at the Samoan defence during the Rugby World Cup Pool A game at Kobe Misaki Stadium between Scotland and Samoa in Kobe City, Japan, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

KOBE, Japan (AP) — For Scotland coach Gregor Townsend, it all depends on whether you’re a glass half-full or half-empty kind of guy. Townsend himself is going with half-full.

Scotland is heading for a high-pressure Rugby World Cup game against host Japan at the end of the pool stage with a place in the quarterfinals likely at stake.

Could be invigorating for the Scots. Or could be intimidating.

“I suppose if you’re a glass half-full person you see it as a really exciting challenge,” Townsend said. “And one you can’t wait to take on. If you’re glass half-empty, then it is a scary challenge. We’ll look at that optimistically.”

The Scotland-Japan battle for the quarters at the World Cup has history.

Four years ago, Scotland and Japan also played in the same pool. Both won three out of their four games but Scotland went through to the quarterfinals because of its two bonus points. Japan went home utterly dejected at missing out on a first trip to the quarters after shocking two-time world champion South Africa at the start of the tournament.

At home this year, Japan has produced another eye-popping upset to beat Ireland and is rugby’s most feared giant killer right now.

Scotland will be up against a team probably still bursting with confidence and a nation full of expectation in the final game of Pool A in Yokohama on Oct. 13, just under two weeks away.

“The atmosphere for the Japan-Ireland game was outstanding. We know what it’s going to be like in Yokohama with 70,000 Japanese supporters behind the team,” Townsend said. “But there will be a few Scots in there too and the bigger the challenge the more that brings out in the team.”

Scotland was under huge pressure for a result Monday night against Samoa in Kobe after being lambasted by the media and fans back home for the 27-3 loss to Ireland to start this World Cup.

Scotland answered all the critics by beating Samoa convincingly 34-0.

Japan has won two from two so far. If Scotland can win that final game, it might come down to the bonus points again.

“The challenge is there. If it means we have to score four tries and deny Japan a bonus point, then that’ll be an even bigger challenge for us to take on,” Townsend said.

Scotland beat Japan 45-10 in 2015 and scored five tries, although it wasn’t the final pool game then.

Here, Japan has Samoa next. Scotland must play Russia before the drama in Yokohama.

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