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Scots driven by selection battle

Scotland lock Alastair Kellock believes extra competition from within the squad and the growing strength of opponents Japan mean every player in dark blue will need to be at their best at Murrayfield on Saturday.

Home head coach Scott Johnson has spoken of the need to create a deeper player pool ahead of the 2015 World Cup and lock Tim Swinson and wing Tommy Seymour make their first Scotland appearances at the national stadium.

Standing in the way of the Scots are a Japan side who shocked Wales in the summer, and Kellock knows they cannot be taken lightly.

Scotland will have the added motivation of knowing that future head coach Vern Cotter will be present after taking a watching brief at training on a week off from club duties. Cotter will take over when his Clermont Auvergne contract expires at the end of the season.

Kellock told Press Association Sport: "The young lads coming through have done very well. I know Scott has spoken about increasing the pool he has got to pick from but a lot of it is happening naturally as well.

"These lads are coming to an age and experience where they would be pushing for the Scotland team.

"Jonny Gray for example has been exceptionally good for Glasgow. He is here on merit and I'm sure he will get an opportunity over the next couple of weeks to show what he can do."

One of the recent additions to the squad is Tim Swinson, who will win his third cap in the viagogo Autumn Test. Kellock is excited about convening a second-row partnership with his Glasgow team-mate on the big stage.

"We had an opportunity a couple of times in the summer as well," Kellock said.

"He is a great guy to play with. He does his basics incredibly well, he works hard, and I enjoy playing with him at Glasgow.

"Obviously with Jonny being in as well, we all know each other well and we are pushing each other in the right direction.

"That's the important thing, although there is competition and you are going for one of two jerseys, that you are helping each other out as well."

Kellock feels Japan have improved mainly because they have "gone back and got their basics spot-on".

"Their set-piece is very, very good; their tackling and defence is very good; the structure of their attack is as good as any of the top teams," Kellock said.

"They have sorted things out from the bottom up and they still have the ability to cut you open if they get good ball."

Scotland lost to Tonga in November last year, a defeat which cost Andy Robinson his job.

Kellock believes countries once known as minnows in world rugby have improved considerably in recent years for two reasons.

"Their players are playing at good levels, in some of the best leagues in the world," he said. "And physically these teams are now as fit and as strong as any other team in the world.

"We will need to be at our best to win the game but also for individuals to keep their jersey."

Glasgow led the way for most of the RaboDirect Pro12 season while Edinburgh have improved in recent weeks, which can only help the feelgood factor.

And assistant coach Duncan Hodge will also hope it proves helpful as Scotland make their return to action against a side which lost 54-6 to New Zealand last week.

Hodge said: "Japan are a really good Test nation. They are well coached, they have a lot of really good players.

"They played six games in the summer and they played the All Blacks last week so in terms of preparation they will be right on the money.

"It's five months since we last played, which is a long time.

"One of the biggest issues as a coaching staff and players is getting these guys all together and ready to play a Test match in eight to 10 days of prep.

"It is always tricky, the first game. It's a definite advantage if you can have a game before the game, as it were.

"You can replicate some of that in training but it's not defined as a game."

The former Scotland international added: "As a coaching staff, you have to be precise in what you are trying to achieve.

"We are pretty focused and hopefully that will come out on the pitch.

"As a player you can't think about it too much, you have to focus on your job and hopefully that translates into performance.

"We have had a good 10 days and it's about putting that on the pitch."

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