Scotland heeded the lessons Japan dished out to South Africa, according to Gloucester Rugby’s Greig Laidlaw, as his side opened their Rugby World Cup campaign with a fine bonus-point win at Kingsholm.
Laidlaw drilled over 20 points with his boot in a dynamic display for Scotland, who burst into life after the break with five tries.
Mark Bennett grabbed a double – the second securing Scotland the bonus point – in addition to efforts from John Hardie, Tommy Seymour and birthday boy Finn Russell.
Despite the 45-10 scoreline Japan had slugged it out blow to blow with the Scots before the break, but understandably wilted in the second half after causing arguably the World Cup’s greatest upset on Saturday by beating two-time winners South Africa.
Now it’s Scotland who are the talk of Pool B and Laidlaw is thankful that it was the Springboks who were caught cold.
“Looking back, Japan’s win over South Africa actually helped our performance,” said Laidlaw. “All credit to Japan in the first game, but I don’t think the Springboks thought they were going to be as aggressive and as organised in attack as they were.
“We had the good fortune to watch that and having watched that there was no room for complacency in our squad – I believe you saw that come through during our performance.
“After Japan’s great start with the win against South Africa it blew the pool wide open, so it was very important for us to start well – but we just focused all our energy on this performance. It added extra for us getting that bonus point, and it could become very important for us later on the pool stages.
“We could only take one game at a time with the USA game next, but we’re delighted.”
Kingsholm is Laidlaw’s usual stomping ground for club side Gloucester and he delivered on his return, being awarded man of the match for his points haul and the constant prodding and probing of the Japanese line.
It’ll have been no surprise to anyone who has witnessed some of his displays for the Cherry & Whites in Aviva Premiership Rugby, and Laidlaw says he felt right back at home at Kingsholm.
“I was delighted personally to come back and play here at Kingsholm, I told the boys during the week what a special rugby ground it is – once again it proved that,” added Laidlaw, who moved to Gloucester last season.
“The passion for rugby down here is second-to-none, but I thought a lot of the boys played very well down here. We started as a team and we started as we mean to go on.
“We’ll move on now to Leeds and the next game now becomes the most important.”