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Jonathan Humphreys amazed by Scotland hooker Stuart McInally's progress

Published 17/06/2016

Stuart McInally will start for Scotland against Japan
Stuart McInally will start for Scotland against Japan

Scotland forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys has hailed the "phenomenal" rise of Stuart McInally ahead of the first of two games against Japan.

McInally, three years after deciding to make a radical change from playing number eight to hooker, will make just his second start for his country on Saturday after replacing the injured Ross Ford in the front row.

And Humphreys was full of praise for the 25-year-old Edinburgh forward.

"His progress has been phenomenal," said Humphreys. "I came to Scotland three years go and the decision had already been made to move him to hooker.

"It was a massive decision for a boy who was knocking on the door as an international back row in his own right and playing every week.

"To make that change was a huge step. I have been fortunate to see him progress from a rainy wet Saturday afternoon in Stirling when he played his first game in his new position.

"I don't think it is something that just anybody can do. You have to be a certain type of person. I don't think you can underestimate what he has done."

For McInally, his second Scotland start - his first came in an experimental selection for a Rugby World Cup warm-up game - is vindication of that switch and goes some way to making up for the neck injury that ruled him out of the tournament.

He said: "It is going to be a very exciting day for me. It was very frustrating to miss the World Cup in the manner it happened, with the injury coming so late.

"I am just glad I managed to recover from it and then take a lot of confidence from being involved during the Six Nations. Coming into this game I feel settled and ready to start.

"I was certainly very hungry to get back involved and made sure during the four months I was off I would come back a better player.

"I worked a lot on my neck strength and it is a lot stronger than it was before the World Cup. It certainly made me desperate to get back involved."

Saturday's game will be the first meeting between Scotland and Japan since their clash at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, when the Scots ran in five second-half tries in a 45-10 victory.

It came just four days after Japan had stunned South Africa in the shock of the tournament, but Japan coach Mark Hammett insisted his side are neither motivated by revenge nor favourites to win in Toyota City.

He said: "That's just headlines. There is no doubt Scotland are favourites."

But Humphreys was full of praise for Japan and expects Scotland to be severely tested.

He said: "The impressive thing about Japan is the quality they are producing. There are a few missing but the boys coming in seem equally adept.

"They are playing the same game and are producing the same threats. We are well aware of how this game is going to go and how it is going to be - a very, very tight affair.

"In the World Cup it was a very, very tight game for long periods. Thankfully we managed to get a few scores and pull away but it was a very tight game."

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