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Scotland cut back on coffee as they prepare to face United States in World Cup

Al Strokosch insists Scotland have plenty of energy left to tackle the United States on Sunday - even if they have had their daily cups of coffee rationed by their anxious medics.

The Dark Blues have had just four days to prepare for their Elland Road clash with the US following Wednesday's World Cup opener with Japan.

Head coach Vern Cotter has been keen to let his troops relax and during their week-long stay in Gloucester ahead of the 45-10 triumph over the Brave Blossoms the Kiwi he allowed the players to visit nearby Tewkesbury for a cuppa.

But with such a short turnaround before their next Pool B fixture, they have now been told to take it easy on the caffeine to ensure they do not waste vital sleep.

Flanker Strokosch explained: "We've been managed really well. The medical department have planned this out for a while.

"It's been a combination of lots of small things. Our strength and conditioning coach Neill Potts gave us a presentation and the three most important things in term of recovery are your sleep, your nutrition and your activity.

"So we based our whole plan around that. We travelled straight after Wednesday's game. The non-playing staff went in the mini-bus so the rest of the boys could have as much room as possible.

"There's been a whole host of recovery sessions in the pool and also with ice and heat. Lots of massage too. The guys have done a great job.

"With sleep being one of the most important things we have also been limited to three cups of coffee a day and all before 3pm to allow us to get a full eight or 10 hours of sleep a night.

"There's a few coffee monsters in the team but they have managed to rein it in for a few days."

On top of the "challenging" schedule, Cotter has also had to contend with injury disrupting his plans.

The day after announcing he had made 10 changes to his starting line-up, the coach has been forced to stand-down John Hardie who has a head injury.

The New Zealand-born flanker - who scored his first try for his adopted nation in Wednesday's crushing win over the Japanese - is replaced by Ryan Wilson, who moves up from the bench.

But with the Scots short on cover in the loose forwards, versatile hooker Fraser Brown has been forced to give up his starting slot in order to act as back-row back-up on the bench, with Ross Ford recalled to start.

Strokosch has been impressed by Hardie's combative first three appearances for the Scots but insists they can cope without the 27-year-old.

"John has been great for us," said the Perpignan forward. "He's a bit of a terminator once he gets going, so it will be a blow.

"But John hasn't trained with us since he got his bang on the head so we have been running with Wilson at seven anyway. We're prepared for it. It shouldn't be too big a deal."

Japan's shock win over South Africa heaped the pressure on Scotland ahead of their opener as the world watched on hoping for a repeat giant-killing act.

But Cotter's team held on during a first-half onslaught before eventually running in five tries after the break to claim a bonus point.

The numbers watching around the world as they face the Eagles on Sunday will not be quite so large but Strokosch warned the pressure will weigh just as heavy on Scotland's shoulders.

He said: "We're in the position where we are on the bottom rung of the tier-one teams and the tier-twos see us as a target. Sides like Japan and the USA think they can come and knock us off.

"But there is a different kind of pressure now. Last time it was because Japan had played well - this time it is the pressure of expectation because we had a good game. So we need to back it up.

"We've made 10 changes but the eagerness of the guys making their first start should factor in our favour. You don't come to a World Cup and not want to play.

"There's the bigger picture at stake - first of all we need to win. We put that well ahead of any personal aspirations.

"But we've made a lot of changes and that's the point of having a big squad. You don't pick anyone you don't think can do the job."


From Belfast Telegraph