Scotland’s World Cup group has been “blown wide open” by Japan’s shock win over South Africa, lock Grant Gilchrist claims.
The Brave Blossoms left rugby fans across the globe stunned with Saturday’s last-gasp 34-32 triumph over the Springboks. The result – dubbed the biggest upset in rugby history – ended Japan’s 24-year wait since their last victory at a World Cup finals and handed the two-time champions a nightmare start.
But Edinburgh forward Gilchrist also believes it has now given the other teams in Pool B – Scotland, Samoa and the United States – real belief that they can edge out the South Africans in the battle for the two quarter-final slots.
Scotland will get their tournament under tomorrow at Gloucester’s Kingsholm Stadium and will be praying they do not become the latest victim of Eddie Jones’ side.
Gilchrist, who has been picked ahead of giant team-mate Richie Gray to start in the second row, said: “We have always had a lot of respect for Japan. We’ve been looking at them for a long time and could always see they were a top side.
“They showed that on Saturday and in terms of the group, it’s blown it wide open. It changes the dynamic of the group. Looking from the outside you’d have expected South Africa to have won their first two games before facing us. But even the likes of Samoa, now that they have a win under their belt over the US, will be looking at South Africa and saying: ‘We want to beat them as well’.
“We want to qualify and while the Japan result doesn’t change what we want to do, it does change the mindsets of the other teams who thought South Africa would roll over all their games.”
Head coach Vern Cotter has decided not to take any risks against Japan after naming a near full-strength line-up.
Scrum-half Greig Laidlaw will be skipper at the home of his club side, while Finn Russell will be expected to set a rapid tempo from stand-off.
Mark Bennett and Matt Scott form the midfield partnership, with Stuart Hogg also given the nod after shaking off an ankle knock. Wing Sean Lamont, partnered by Tommy Seymour, will nudge closer to his century of caps when he makes his 98th international appearance.
The all-Edinburgh front row of Alasdair Dickinson, WP Nel and hooker Ross Ford lead a pack that also features Gilchrist and Jonny Gray in the second row, with Ryan Wilson, John Hardie and No.8 David Denton named in the back row.