LEEDS, 27 SEPT – Coach Vern Cotter believes the physical pounding Scotland took in the first half of their 39-16 Pool B win over the USA was ideal preparation ahead of the even rougher treatment they will face in the crunch game against South Africa next week.
Scotland shook off the effects of a first-half American assault at Elland Road on Sunday to come back from 13-6 down at half-time, running in five tries for a second bonus-point win in a row.
"Japan were physical as well but these guys were bigger, very hard-hitting and came off the line with speed," Cotter said of the USA, whose wing Takudzwa Ngwenya made a particularly rib-crunching tackle on Peter Horne as the Scots were dominated in the first 40 minutes.
"It took time to adapt to them. South Africa are physical, probably even more so, Samoa the same, and we knew this was going to be the kind of rugby we would face in this pool."
The bonus-point win puts Scotland top of Pool B with 10 points, despite making 10 changes to the starting XV that beat Japan, and losing flanker John Hardie to a head injury on the eve of the match.
"If they gave me 12 (points) I'd take them," Cotter said, when asked if his team could be in any better position after two games.
"We've got through these two, played some reasonable rugby, adapted to situations that were difficult and the guys can take self-belief into the next two games."
Scotland wing Tim Visser got the try-fest under way early in the second half, as he became the first professional Dutch-born player to feature in a Rugby World Cup match.
Only injuries to fly-half Finn Russell (pictured above) and lock Grant Gilchrist marred a display that saw Scotland power out of sight of the Americans with further tries from Sean Maitland, WP Nel, Matt Scott and Duncan Weir.
Scotland had their noses in front only once before the break, when penalties from Stuart Hogg and Russell gave them a 6-3 lead after AJ MacGinty's early three-pointer for the USA.
Clicked into gear
And after 10 minutes an American lineout that had been malfunctioning clicked into gear, and prop Titi Lamositele squirmed over to score the game's opening try after Andrew Durutalo was held up on the line.
USA coach Mike Tolkin said his team had been geared up to inflict more damage in the second half, but Visser's try had put the wind in Scotland's sails.
"We knew it was important to come out of the clubhouse and establish ourselves and to get territory, but the opposite happened, and after that we seemed to be constantly playing from penalties or playing from out of our own end," Tolkin said.
"A lot of these guys don't play the grind of a professional season with a hard game week in, week out. So for some of our guys it's a real challenge and it's something that we have got to overcome."
Scotland lead South Africa by three points ahead of Saturday's match, while USA's hopes of automatic qualification for Japan 2019 look buried as they sit last, four points behind Japan and Samoa.