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Matt Taylor warns Canada will be keen to bounce back from Japan defeat

Canadians are a famously hospitable people, but Scotland defence coach Matt Taylor has warned his players to expect a not-so-warm welcome when they take on the home side at Toronto's BMO Stadium tonight.

Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw in training ahead of the Test against Canada. Picture: SNS
Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw in training ahead of the Test against Canada. Picture: SNS

Canada have a reputation for playing a particularly hard and uncompromising kind of rugby, but Taylor believes their loss to Japan last weekend, when they coughed up 25 unanswered points in a calamitous second-half performance, will have ramped up their determination and the Scots could find themselves on the receiving end of a backlash.

"They were in control for a lot of the game [against Japan] last week and they will be disappointed that they let it slip," said Taylor. "This is going to be a very tough Test match for us. We want to take it up a couple of notches from where we were last week."

Understandably, new coach Vern Cotter has highlighted the aggressive edge the Canadians gain from the presence of Jamie Cudmore, the teak-tough lock who was a stalwart of the Clermont Auvergne side he coached before taking up the reins with Scotland. Taylor agreed that Cudmore, who is now 35, has lost none of his power down the years.

"He has played consistently well in Europe," said Taylor. "They have good players across the board, but he's probably a talisman. He is a big. tough competitor so we will be doing our best to shut him down.

"I think the Canadians are similar to the Americans in the sense that they are very athletic and physical. They are very good at the conditioning part of the game and they have some explosive players.

"Defensively, we'll have to be at the top of our game. They kick the ball very little and they attack from anywhere in the pitch. But we're up for the challenge."

As they should be with a back three of Stuart Hogg, Tim Visser and Sean Maitland, a strike force that almost any country would envy.

The trio are all superb counter attackers, but Canada have some useful runners as well in the shape of former Glasgow wing Taylor Paris, who scored a superb solo try against Japan, and Ospreys winger Jeff Hassler.

Taylor said: "We're lucky that we know the two wingers very well. I coached Paris at Glasgow and he is in good form, and they have Hassler form the Ospreys. They also have DTH [Van der Merwe, of Glasgow] on the bench so the back three is very potent and they have been scoring good tries. We've talked about shutting them down and how good defence is important.

"But we're confident in own players as well. Our guys are extremely good international players, so Canada will have to be on the ball as well to defend against us too. If those guys hit form they'll be hard to stop."

The USA struggled to get the measure of them a week ago, but finishing lapses let the Scots - and Visser in particular - down. Visser did score the first of the Scots' three tries, but he would have had a hat trick, or possibly even four, had he taken all the chances that came his way in the opening half-hour.

"I think there was rustiness there," said the Australian, who cut his coaching teeth with the Queensland Reds. "At half-time we were really disappointed at not taking the opportunities that were presented.

"We've talked about that and a week together has certainly helped those combinations get together. However. it has probably helped Canada as well to have another week.

"Viss will be hoping that he executes a bit better than he did last week. Our training has had an extra step up from last week, especially in execution of the skills. Vern has introduced a few different things as well so the team is getting used to what he has brought. We're an extra week down the line and better for it." The expectation has always been that the Canada leg of their summer tour would be far tougher than their opening match against the Eagles. However, Scotland's recent return to the top eight of the world rankings occurred at a time when the Canadians were heading in the opposite direction, and there is concern in these parts that the gains made by Canada over the past few years have been lost in a 12-month period in which they have lost to Georgia and Romania as well as suffering two defeats against Japan.

Yet, outside the Churchill Cup competition, Scotland have lost on their last two visits to Canada - a 26-23 loss in 2002 (in a match where they famously introduced seven new caps) and a 24-19 defeat in a non-Test match in 1991. Cotter is well aware of that history and he is anxious to avoid any repetition.

Cotter sat back a little as his assistant coaches prepared for the USA game, but there has been no question about who is now running Scotland's show in Canada. And no question, either, about the approach he brings to the job.

"He has brought a steely edge," said Taylor, with obvious feeling. "He is an intense guy. He doesn't mince his words. If he thinks something has been done well he will tell you; and if not he will tell you as well. That goes for both players and staff."

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