LONDON (Reuters) - Having seen off a Japan side clearly weary from their heroics against the Springboks, Scotland now face a fitness challenge of their own as they prepare for a physical encounter with the United States after a four-day turnaround.
Scotland coach Vern Cotter has made 10 changes to the side that ran in five second-half tries against the Brave Blossoms and has gambled on leaving goalkicker Greig Laidlaw on the bench for Sunday’s match in Leeds against the error-prone Americans.
The United States matched the two tries scored by the Samoans in their first Pool B match, but points from the boot proved the difference as they capitulated 25-16.
Of the players likely to kick at goal for Scotland, flyhalf Finn Russell has scored only two conversions for his country, while fullback Stuart Hogg has a solitary penalty to his name.
Cotter’s selection could also be a sign that he has instructed his side to prioritize the four tries needed to collect a bonus point against the team sitting at the bottom of a tight pool.
The mercurial Hogg, Scotland’s most potent attacking threat, retains his place, as does center Mark Bennett, scorer of a brace of tries in Wednesday’s 45-10 dismantling of Japan.
Of those brought into the side, winger Tim Visser, dubbed “the Dutch Flyer” because of his birthplace in the Netherlands, has scored nine tries in 21 appearances for Scotland, while center Peter Horne is an opportunistic support runner who will be dangerous in broken play.
History suggests that Scotland should win the tie. They will also be buoyed by the win over Japan, their biggest victory since beating Romania 42-0 in 2007.
Scotland have won all of their previous four matches against the United States, but each time by finer margins. The most recent encounter was a 24-6 win in Houston last summer.
Rugby has become one of the fastest-growing sports in America and the Eagles now boast a number of players who have made their mark on the world stage.
Number eight Samu Manoa has recently moved to French champions Toulon from Northampton, while fullback and captain Chris Wyles features for English champions Saracens.
Before the tournament the Eagles would have targeted the Japan match to add to their three previous wins in the competition — two of the others have come against the Japanese with one against Russia.
Now, though, with Japan beating South Africa and having a full week of rest before they face the Eagles, the United States may well look at the Scotland game as their best chance to add to that tally.
Scotland: 1-Ryan Grant, 2-Fraser Brown, 3-Jon Welsh, 4-Richie Gray, 5-Grant Gilchrist, 6-Alasdair Strokosch, 7-John Hardie, 8-Josh Strauss; 9-Henry Pyrgos (captain), 10-Finn Russell, 11-Tim Visser, 12-Peter Horne, 13-Mark Bennett, 14-Sean Maitland, 15-Stuart Hogg
Replacements: 16-Ross Ford, 17-Alasdair Dickinson, 18-Willem Nel, 19-Tim Swinson, 20-Ryan Wilson, 21-Greig Laidlaw, 22-Duncan Weir, 23-Matt Scott.
United States: 1-Eric Fry, 2-Phil Thiel, 3-Titi Lamositele, 4-Hayden Smith, 5-Greg Peterson, 6-Al McFarland, 7-Andrew Durutalo, 8-Samu Manoa; 9-Mike Petri, 10-AJ MacGinty, 11- Blaine Scully, 12-Thretton Palamo, 13-Seamus Kelly, 14-Takudzwa Ngwenya, 15-Chris Wyles (captain)
Replacements: 16-Zach Fenoglio, 17-Olive Kilifi, 18-Chris Baumann, 19-Cameron Dolan, 20-John Quill, 21-Danny Barrett, 22-Shalom Suniula, 23-Folau Niua
Editing by David Goodman