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Taylor upbeat about Maitland’s chances of facing Japan

Defence coach confident wing will recover from tight groin in time for Sunday’s match.

Sean Maitland is expected to be fit for Scotland (AP)
Sean Maitland is expected to be fit for Scotland (AP)

By By Andy Newport, PA, Shizuoka

Scotland are confident Sean Maitland will be fit to face Japan in Sunday’s quarter-final decider clash in Yokohama.

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The Saracens wing has missed the Scots’ last two training sessions with a tight groin.

But defence coach Matt Taylor believes both Maitland, who opened the scoring for the Dark Blues against Samoa last week before forcing the Pacific Islanders into conceding a penalty try which sealed their all-important bonus-point win, and prop Allan Dell will be ready to go against the Brave Blossoms.

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Defence coach Matt Taylor is upbeat about Sean Maitland’s fitness (Danny Lawson/PA)

Dell had to be replaced early against Samoa after suffering a head knock but has passed his concussion protocol checks and has returned to full contact work in training.

Taylor, speaking ahead of Wednesday’s clash with Russia in Shizuoka, said: “Sean has a little bit of a tight groin and we are working our way through that at the moment.

“We are very confident that he will play a part against Japan, he is just going through the protocols. We are confident he is going to be fine for Sunday.

We are very confident that he will play a part against Japan, he is just going through the protocols. We are confident he is going to be fine for Sunday. Scotland defence coach Matt Taylor

“And Delly is in a good spot, he has just done a bout of hard contact with me and came through it really well.”

The clash with Japan is understandably continuing to dominate the minds of the Scotland faithful considering what will be at stake in the final game of the group.

But the showdown with Russia remains just as vital for now. Gregor Townsend’s men need to extract the full five points on offer so they can maximise their chances of pipping the hosts to the last eight when they face off at the weekend.

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Gregor Townsend and his players need to take five points from the Japan game (Adam Davy/PA)

The Bears – ranked 20th in the world – sit bottom of Pool A without a point but their pack have certainly not disgraced themselves with their work on the ground.

But Taylor says Scotland must expect an aerial bombardment from stand-off Yury Kushnarev, who has kicked more ball than any other player in the tournament so far.

“We understand that they kick a lot, I believe the most in the competition at the moment, that is the kind of game plan they are playing,” said Taylor.

“From a defensive point of view, you don’t want to give them front-foot ball because then they are kicking and not coming forward on the ball.

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Taylor highlighted the influence Tommy Seymour could have on the Japan game (Adam Davy/PA)

“The other thing is that we want to put higher pressure on their nine and 10 when they kick.

“If we do that, it hopefully presents us with some good counter-attack ball but the initial hits in contact…we have to make sure we are really good at that and we have to pressure their kicking game.

“Lastly you have to make sure you are good in the air, you have got to take those. It is like another set piece for us, another ability to attack from.

“Tommy Seymour is massive for us in that sense. He’s very good in the air, one of the reasons why he has got the nod. He is excellent in the air, maybe even our best player in the air, he is huge.”

PA

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