Scotland have been warned they will be taking on a team on a revenge mission when they tackle Japan on Saturday.
Veteran Scotland prop Alasdair Dickinson reckons the Brave Blossoms have a formidable pack and are all the more dangerous after being beaten 45-10 in last year’s Rugby World Cup.
His memory of that game is still fresh and he is under no illusions that it was anywhere near as easy as the final scoreline suggests.
“It was very tough,” he said. “They had been outstanding against South Africa and were backing up that performance four days later. I found it very hard, especially up front. They are very strong men, well drilled and enjoy their scrummaging. I expect it to be equally hard at the weekend.
“We know they are coming after revenge from the World Cup, so it will be a tough one. We need to start well, which we did not do particularly well in that game. We need to tidy up a few of our fundamentals and need to come out of the box firing.
“Japan take their chances. They are very skilful players and we have seen what happens when they capitalise on errors with a lot of broken field play. Minimise errors and start better.”
He is likely to be one of the key players as the set-piece battle, and in particular the scrum, which could decide the game.
Japan have a reputation as being flaky at scrum time but after packing down against them, Dickinson refuses to subscribe to that stereotype.
“All the games I have watched Japan play over many years, their set piece has been excellent,” he said.
“Their front five are all big, strong men and so, for us, it is another battle we have to win. We saw in the World Cup the tight areas were a huge challenge for us. Japan will have progressed, as have we – it is an area they are targeting,
“The Japanese scrum probably the lowest in the world. It is probably how they are built, big men who can get really low and we have to manage the combat. They are a tough scrummaging team who will be coming for us. It will he a good challenge.”
Depending on final selection, there are going to be a lot of players on both sides who remember that World Cup game, which helped launch Scotland into the quarter-finals but cost Japan a place in the knockout stage despite it being the only game they lost.
In all, 19 of the Scotland squad and 16 of the Japan squad were available that day – though perhaps crucially among the missing players in the Japan side are Michael Leitch, their World Cup captain, and Ayumu Goromaru, their main goal kicker.
“We have been quite lucky that not a lot of players have moved on and we have managed to keep a core for the last few years,” Dickinson said.
“It is inevitable that the older guys will move on and the young guys will come through but over the last few years we have been able to keep a core together and evolve together to try to do something special.”