Preview: Scotland v USA

Date published: September 25 2015

Shock results don't come much bigger than Japan defeating South Africa. That has subsequently given Scotland an excellent chance to top Pool B.

But write off Samoa at your peril as they could apply pressure on the Scots with victory over the Boks on Saturday. That would all but end the twice winners' hopes in a pool that was somewhat glossed over as being tough to escape. No one though thought Japan would add such drama to it.

Many have said that had Japan enjoyed a week's rest before facing Scotland the result – the margin of the score at least – might have been very different. But World Cup schedule gripes are for another day as the focus for Vern Cotter will be to avoid any slip up en route to five points.

Fresh in their first match, the Scots weathered the early barrage from Japan and eventually pulled clear in the second-half, with their classy centres enjoying strong games while Greig Laidlaw was solid off the tee. Now with the cobwebs blown they must get themselves a bonus-point win ahead of taking on South Africa at St James' Park and then finally Samoa at the same venue, with plenty of home support expected at the ground.

This Sunday they face a USA side disappointed with their opening showing. They struggled to get Samu Manoa involved while it took over half-an-hour for them to trouble the scorers. There will have been plenty to improve then as this time Scotland have fewer days rest in between matches.

Consistency in key positions has seen Cotter stick with Finn Russell in the number ten jersey, which is wise against one of USA's real success stories of their past twelve months, fly-half AJ MacGinty. The 25-year-old has only played six Tests but already looks a high class number ten.

Manoa will of course be vital to USA's hopes of causing an upset but Scotland are well equipped in the back-row to stifle the powerful number eight, with strong showings from John Hardie and David Denton last week sure to please Cotter. Josh Strauss gets his chance this week in Leeds.

On paper it should be two wins from two for Scotland then with the bonus-point possibly the only sticking point as they look to give themselves the perfect build-up to those crucial pool deciding games that follow in the north east of England. What a couple of weeks that promises to be.

Ones to watch:

For Scotland: Such is the confidence coach Cotter has in Henry Pyrgos that the scrum-half comes in for Greig Laidlaw and has also been handed the captaincy this week. Scotland have three strong number nines with Sam Hidalgo-Clyne another impressive option but it is Pyrgos' turn on Sunday and he won't let the side down, with his game management having been key for Glasgow last season. He'll transfer that to the RWC.

For USA: Although the Eagles lost their opening match against Samoa, Thretton Palamo enhanced his reputation with a fine allround performance. The big midfielder got over the gainline with several powerful runs and put his body on the line with some big hits on defence. He will be keen to build on that showing with another soild shift against the Scots.

Head-to-head: The battle between Scotland fly-half Finn Russell and USA counterpart AJ MacGinty will have a huge bearing on the this fixture's outcome. Both impressed with their playmaking abilities, in their respective sides' opening matches, and will be expected to get their outside backs onto the front-foot in this clash.

Recent results:

2014: Scotland won 24-6 in Houston
2003: Scotland won 39-15 in Brisbane
2002: Scotland won 65-23 in San Francisco
2000: Scotland won 53-6 at Murrayfield

Prediction: Expect the confident Scots to take this one by 20 points!

The teams:

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Peter Horne, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Henry Pyrgos (c), 8 Josh Strauss, 7 John Hardie, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Richie Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Ryan Grant.
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.

USA: 15 Chris Wyles (c), 14 Takudzwa Ngwenya, 13 Seamus Kelly, 12 Thretton Palamo, 11 Blaine Scully, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Mike Petri, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Andrew Durutalo, 6 Al McFarland, 5 Greg Peterson, 4 Hayden Smith, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Phil Thiel, 1 Eric Fry. 

Replacements: 16 Zach Fenoglio, 17 Oli Kilifi, 18 Chris Baumann, 19 Cam Dolan, 20. John Quill, 21 Danny Barrett, 22 Shalom Suniula, 23 Folau Niua.

Date: Sunday, September 27
Venue: Elland Road, Leeds
Kick-off: 14:30 local
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Television match official: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)