- Associated Press - Friday, September 25, 2015

LEEDS, England (AP) - Scotland is about to discover just how hard a four-day turnaround is at the Rugby World Cup.

The Scots were the beneficiaries of such tight scheduling on Wednesday when they faced a Japan team fatigued after its stunning win over South Africa four days earlier. After a hard-fought first 45 minutes, Scotland scored five tries in pulling away to a 45-10 win in Gloucester.

On Sunday, it’s the Scots needing to back up two Pool B games in four days when they play the United States in Leeds. And for that reason, coach Vern Cotter made 10 changes to his team, with the entire bench from the victory over Japan getting promoted to the starting lineup.

“We haven’t done a lot other than try to work our best recovery process,” said Cotter, who was resigned to - but clearly displeased with - the quick turnaround. “Having to create and develop new plays and things like that would be a bit too much so it’s about doing the simple things as well.”

What made it even harder for Cotter is that Scotland plays the Springboks - still the No. 1 side in the pool - six days after taking on the Eagles. He acknowledged that managing three games in 13 days was one of the toughest challenges of his career.

Flyhalf Finn Russell, fullback Stuart Hogg, center Mark Bennett, lock Grant Gilchrist, and flanker John Hardie were the starting players retained by Scotland from the Japan game, with scrumhalf Henry Pyrgos taking over as captain from Greig Laidlaw.

The Americans, meanwhile, only made one change, with Phil Thiel starting at hooker in place of Zach Fenoglio

The Eagles opened with a 25-16 loss to Samoa on Sunday, and decided to have a training session instead of watching the Scotland-Japan game on Wednesday.

Watching back the video, they will have seen an impressive performance by Scotland at Kingsholm, which has given its players’ more belief that they can qualify from what is set up to be a tight pool.

Scotland having (only) four days rest is a false sense of security and it takes away from the focus that we have to work damn hard to win any World Cup game,” U.S. coach Mike Tolkin said Friday.

“I don’t think there is a person in the world who is not going to feel the effects of it late in the game, so they’ll battle around it. For us, we want to keep taking it to them and keep the tempo and the physicality up.”

That physicality is what Cotter spoke most about when assessing the Americans.

“I expect them to be very physical, very direct. They have speed and size and power,” Cotter said. “They have been improving, had some good performances … and they’ve had a week to prepare. They watched us two days ago, so they will be on the money.”

Elland Road - the home of second-tier English football team Leeds United - is hosting its first full international, having previously staged one rugby match between South Africa and a North of England XV in 1992.

“Personally, I just like the fact it’s a firm pitch,” Bennett said. “Maybe the forwards won’t welcome it so much, but I will.”



Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Mark Bennett, Peter Horne, Tim Visser, Finn Russell, Henry Pyrgos (captain); Josh Strauss, John Hardie, Alasdair Strokosch, Grant Gilchrist, Richie Gray, Jon Welsh, Fraser Brown, Ryan Grant. Reserves: Ross Ford, Alasdair Dickinson, Willem Nel, Tim Swinson, Ryan Wilson, Greig Laidlaw, Duncan Weir, Matt Scott.

United States: Chris Wyles (captain), Takudzwa Ngwenya, Seamus Kelly, Thretton Palamo, Blaine Scully, AJ MacGinty, Mike Petri; Samu Manoa, Andrew Durutalo, Al McFarland, Greg Peterson, Hayden Smith, Titi Lamositele, Phil Thiel, Eric Fry. Reserves: Zach Fenoglio, Olive Kilifi, Chris Baumann, Cameron Dolan, John Quill, Danny Barrett, Shalom Suniula, Folau Niua.


This story has been corrected to show in the second paragraph that Scotland scored five tries against Japan, not four.

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