Scotland have to prepare for Russia like they would for any other team In Japan – with fierce focus and no complacency, says centre Duncan Taylor.
The Saracens man is a likely starter in Shizuoka next Wednesday as the Scots seek to rest men for the quick turnaround before they play the host nation in Yokohama to wind up their pool campaign, but whole attention is focused on that game – especially from the local TV crews now coming into the Scotland camp – a win against Russia is essential to make it mean something.
The Russians have given all three teams they’ve met so far some problems, and there’s no question of the Scots taking them lightly.
“That’s what we’ve spoken about already today,” said Taylor. “We have to make sure that we are not, in any way, complacent against these guys because they do offer threats across the park.
“They are a massively physical team, so we need to make sure that we prepare as well as we have for any team in this match.”
Russia came into the tournament off the back of some dire results in their warm-ups, conceding 85 points to Italy and losing to club sides Jersey and Connacht, but they’ve upped their game since arriving in Japan.
“They have shown everyone that they can play, they have shown that they can defend as well, and I think teams have found them more challenging than they initially thought Russia was going to be,” said Taylor.
“They have proven that they need respect and we can’t afford to be complacent in any way, shape or form going into this game.
“We know we’ve got to win the game and the bonus point is what we are thinking about. Like others have said already, we have to get those four or five points if we want to progress out of this group, so we are looking for that bonus point.
“Russia have been really strong defensively, they don’t make too many mistakes or fall off too many tackles, so patience is definitely going to be key to getting a good result on Wednesday night.”
Assistant coach Danny Wilson knows Russian coach Lyn Jones well from their time together in Wales, and has great respect for him.
“He’s one of the great rugby brains in my opinion, and their identity is probably what you expect with Lyn, a very good defensive team, their contact area defence is a real handful,” said Wilson.
“They have grown throughout the tournament so far and done well. Lyn is a very clever coach in how he goes about his game plan, so there is lots for us to be aware of.
“At times they frustrated Ireland and I think they turned them over eight times, and five of those were around the breakdown. So we know what is coming. We have to get the imprint on the game we want.”
Scotland’s plan hasn’t changed as a result of Russia’s performance against the other teams, notably Ireland on Thursday night.
“We know we have got a challenge based on these two games over quite a short period,” he continued. “That is the challenge of a World Cup.
“We watched the game last night and we have looked at Russia in a fair bit of detail, and we are not seeing past that game at the moment. We know we need to get maximum points out of this game, which will be a challenge in itself, and one we relish.”
Scotland’s turnaround is so sharp that any player failing an HIA against Russia will not play against Japan, a situation Scotland experienced during the Six Nations with Finn Russell, added Wilson.
“We lost Finn playing for Racing before we played France on a six day turnaround, and there were not enough days for him to recover and play for us in the Six Nations,” he continued. “That is the protocol and rightly so – safety first – but on a four day turnaround that makes it impossible.
“But knowing this group of players and the talk coming out or them, they are putting that aside and focused purely on the game in front of us and the need to get a result against Russia.
“As a coaching group and as a senior group we need to be aware of managing those the four days but we need to do a job first and foremost on the next opposition we play.”