Well-coached Scots looking in good nick for second match
After what proved, ultimately, to be a comfortable victory against Japan on Wednesday, Scotland will look to build on that morale-boosting victory by accounting for the US Eagles in Leeds.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Vern Cotter’s men in that opener, with only five points in it at half-time before fatigue eventually caught up with Japan after their short turnaround. The Scots will be wary of the effects of playing a second Test match in the space of five days and have reshuffled the deck accordingly for this one.
Cotter has resisted the urge to make wholesale changes, opting instead to rotate his squad with the entire bench from the last day starting here, while there are just four new faces in the 23-man squad; Tim Visser and Alasdair Strokosch who start at wing and back-row respectively, and replacements Tim Swinson and Duncan Weir. Elsewhere, two of the standout performers against Japan, Finn Russell ad two-try Mark Bennett keep their places in the backs while up front lock Richie Gray starts in place of brother Jonny.
The USA ran Samoa close in their nine-point defeat, with captain Chris Wyles scoring possibly the pick of the opening weekend’s tries after a fluid team effort. The Eagles will be eager to bounce back to extend their mathematical interest in the tournament into the coming week.
A physical and pacey side, Mike Tolkin’s Americans would have targeted at least one scalp before inevitably departing at the pool stages; with Japan playing so well, and the Springboks next up, the Eagles may now see this as their best chance of putting some points (bonus, even) on the Pool B board.
They have had a week to recover from their exertions and expect Wyles and Co to remain competitive to the very end. However, their discipline let them down the last day, conceding 14 penalties, something the Scots will have duly noted.
Five tries against the Cherry Blossoms secured a maximum return for Scotland and with everything still to play for in this most open of pools – and with the Springboks playing catch-up – a similar yield will be the bare minimum demanded again by Cotter here. Expect the Scots to deliver but not without a fight from the fired-up Eagles, and the 21/5 about the Scots to triumph by a winning margin of 16-20 points could prove fruitful.
The match kicks off at 2.30pm on Sunday, September 27th at Elland Road.
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