Zander Fagerson: Scotland are fully focused on Russia clash
Zander Fagerson says the picture could not be any clearer for Scotland after Japan’s last-gasp push sent their World Cup quarter-final race down to the wire.
The Dark Blues gathered as a squad to watch the Brave Blossoms take on Samoa in Toyota City.
Gregor Townsend’s men were hoping to see the hosts slip-up against the Pacific Islanders but were left disappointed as they battled through, with Kotaro Matsushima clinching a bonus-point win deep into injury time.
The result means Scotland must now take the win and the extras on offer against Russia on Wednesday before beating Japan by four clear group points when they square off in their do-or-die showdown four days later to ensure a place in the last eight.
But that is the clarity of vision Glasgow tighthead prop Fagerson is looking for.
He said: “It was a funny one, in the heat of the moment, you do certain things, (and watching the game as a squad is) what we decided to do.
“It has made the picture clearer for us, what we need to do against Russia first and what we need to do against Japan in the last game. The picture is very clear now.
“Can we afford to start thinking about Japan? Not really, no. We have Russia first and if we don’t get the job done against Russia there is no point in even thinking about Japan because we need those five points.
“Everything is focused on Russia now and getting that bonus-point win.”
The Russians have shipped 99 points already having been thrashed in all three of their fixtures so far.
But Fagerson insists it would be folly to write off Lyn Jones’ side ahead of their clash in Shizuoka.
He said: “If you actually watch the Russia games in the World Cup so far, they have been there or thereabouts.
“They were beating Japan at half-time, they are a very physical team, they are very well drilled in defence and have a really strong forward pack, that try to smash you up physically.
“We are not taking Russia lightly at all. We do our due diligence and get all avenues into the game nailed down because they are going to be a tough game.”
Fagerson made his World Cup debut during Monday’s 34-0 win over Samoa as he got on for the final 22 minutes in Kobe.
He now looks certain to start against the Russians, with Townsend likely to split his squad in two as he juggles the pressures of playing two games in the space of four days against the requirement of taking enough points to seal progression.
But the 23-year-old says he will be a willing volunteer if asked to play both legs of the double-header.
“If the opportunity arises I will grasp it with both hands,” Fagerson said.
“To be at a World Cup is a great achievement but you are only half way there, I want to play as much as I can. If the opportunity arises I would love to play.
“I have done a few junior World Cups and know the four-day turnaround quite well. Of course international rugby is a lot more physical than the under-20s, most pools have had one of these games, it is part and parcel of the World Cup.
“Recovery is key, getting in the pool, keep stretching and being as professional as you can about it.
“If called upon to play both games I will make sure I am in the right frame of mind and the right shape physically.”