Thursday 24 October 2019

Sam Johnson: Scotland treated like kings since arriving in Japan

The Glasgow midfielder has been bowled over by the hospitality in Nagasaki and Tokyo.

Scotland’s Sam Johnson is looking to knock Ireland off their throne on Sunday (Graham Stuart/PA)
Scotland’s Sam Johnson is looking to knock Ireland off their throne on Sunday (Graham Stuart/PA)

By Andy Newport, PA, Tokyo

Sam Johnson says Scotland have been treated like kings since touching down in Japan – now the Dark Blues centre is looking to knock Ireland off their throne on Sunday.

The Glasgow midfielder has been bowled over by the hospitality laid on by the locals in both Nagasaki and Tokyo, where the Scots have been shaping up for their Pool A opener with Joe Schmidt’s team this weekend.

The showdown will pit Gregor Townsend’s men against the side currently ranked number one in the world.

Ireland are number one in the world but we're confident Sam Johnson

But Johnson declared there would be no warm welcome for the Irish – who have lost just once to the Scots in their last seven Tests – at Yokohama’s International Stadium.

“I think you’ve got to look to the top,” said Johnson. “We’re aware of the challenge that’s going to be awaiting us against Ireland this weekend and we’re focusing on that game.

“They are number one in the world but we’re confident.

“They have got a few injuries but I think they’re going to replace that with real quality as well.

“Well, we’re in a different country now so I think that levels out the playing field.

“We’ll see what the conditions are like this weekend, I think the forecast is for rain.

ipanews_5375f3a9-c123-475d-8071-a7cf2ad10f7c_embedded241101035
Scotland have beaten Ireland just once in their last seven Tests (Ian Rutherford/PA).

“It will be one of those ones when whoever rocks up the best and is ready to play might come out on top.

“I think their kicking game is going to be a huge strength for them, especially if the weather is going to be wet.

“We’ve just got to put as much pressure on their half-back pairing of Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton as we can. They’re world-class players but we’ll deal with the threats that are in front of us and have a crack.”

Johnson and the rest of the Scottish delegation have been soaking up as much of the Japanese culture as they can, with an evening at sumo wrestling next on the agenda.

“The Japanese people have been first class, the welcome has been unbelievable,” he said.

“We have been treated like kings so far. Maybe closer to game day it will be hyped up even more.

“The hospitality in Nagasaki when we had the welcoming ceremony and the lengths the Japanese people went to was really great. You could say over the top but in a good way. It was really cool.

We’ve had a game of golf and today we’re off to the Sumo wrestling Sam Johnson

“I went to the atomic bomb museum in Nagasaki. It was a sobering experience but an interesting one too.

“We’ve had a game of golf and today we’re off to the Sumo wrestling.

“It’s important to enjoy your down time. It’s a long tournament, one which hasn’t even begun for us yet.

“The Welsh had 15,000 fans turn up at their training. We haven’t really experienced those numbers as yet but we’ll have 74,000 fans inside the stadium in Yokohama on Sunday so it’ll feel pretty special.”

Having faced Ireland already this year in the Six Nations – when his first Test try was not enough to prevent a 22-13 defeat – he knows the 2018 Grand Slam winners will be no pushovers.

“We’ll know we’re in a contest. The thing I took from game earlier this year is they are such a physical team. A lot of their work comes off Connor Murray, with Johnny Sexton orchestrating from in behind.

“So we’re expecting a hugely physical encounter – but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the flair out wide to break you on the edges.

“The weather might dictate the terms of play, but definitely we’re expecting them to bring their physicality this weekend.”

PA Media

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