IT was already absolutely imperative that Scotland belatedly get their show on the road against Samoa tomorrow night, even before Japan’s sensational victory over Ireland yesterday blew Pool A wide open.

The battle for the two qualification spots is now going to be fascinating and complicated, but the key thing as far as Gregor Townsend’s team is concerned is that their destiny is still in their own hands. As it stands, if they can secure three bonus-point wins from their next three matches and prevent Japan from a bonus point in the final pool game, then that will be enough to guarantee a spot in the last eight.

It is not going to be easy. Given that Scotland were well and truly destroyed by Ireland last weekend, there are no grounds to presume that they can get the better of the host nation – let alone win as comfortably as they are likely to need to – in front of a fervent crowd at the Yokohama International Stadium on October 13.

But that is a worry for another day. The immediate issue facing Scotland is that they must generate as much momentum as they can tomorrow night, and Townsend’s team selection for that outing reflects his desire to inject some youthful energy into the campaign after the experienced side he put out last time failed to deliver.

He has made five changes to his starting XV, including the enforced selection of Jamie Ritchie in place of the injured Hamish Watson at openside flanker, and has shed 131 caps worth of experience in the starting XV in the process.

In particular, the call-ups for winger Darcy Graham, blindside flanker Magnus Bradbury and No.8 Blade Thomson has added three very different kind of ball-carriers capable of taking the match to Samoa.

Graham, who has scored five tries in eight Scotland appearances, adds electrifying pace and agility to the backline. At 5ft 9ins and 13 stone, the Hawick man might not initially look like he can do much damage against the giants of modern international rugby, but what he lacks in bulk he more than compensates for in bravery and enthusiasm. He will run hard, fast and unpredictably – and doesn’t know when he is beaten.

“Everytime he's played for Scotland he's taken the game to the opposition,” said Townsend at yesterday’s team announcement. “Not every performance has been perfect and there are things he can work on as a young player but he's someone who goes at the opposition with ball in hand.

“He's very aggressive defensively and he's a learner, so he's taken each game for Scotland and his club and got better.

“There's a real buzz when he gets on the ball and it's the same when Stuart Hogg gets on the ball, so it's a great combination to have in the back three alongside Sean Maitland.”

Bradbury is cut from a very different cloth. He is a bruiser who will look to plough through the middle of – rather than jink around – whatever stands in his way. He wasn’t in the initial World Cup squad after missing much of the summer training camp due to a rib injury, but was kept around when Ritchie smashed up his face against Georgia two days before the plane set off for Japan, and now the big chance has come he will be determined to snatch it with both hands.

Thomson, meanwhile, sits somewhere between the two. He is no shrinking violet at 6ft 6ins and 16½ stone but is not an archetypal basher. The New Zealander, who qualifies for Scotland through his paternal grandfather, had his international bow postponed last season by a concussion suffered playing club rugby for the Scarlets at the start of November, which did not clear up until near the end of the season.

That means he has only three caps coming into this match and leaves the entire starting back-row – of Thomson, Bradbury and Ritchie – with 23 caps in total (compared to 146 caps it boasted through Ryan Wilson, John Barclay and Watson ahead of last weekend’s game). Against that, Townsend clearly believes that the new trio can bring the dynamism needed to generate the fast ball his rugby philosophy is geared around.

“The balance we have in the back row, we believe there is carrying in there with Magnus, Blade also offers a really good line-out option and Jamie’s our next seven, even though he’s played really well as a six,” explained the coach.

“The back-row have to stand up and carry, defend and hit contacts. The front five have do the same and they’ve got even more responsibility around the set-piece. We’ve got to get around the Samoan defence using footwork or sheer determination to ride the tackles.”

The other change to the side is at outside centre where Chris Harris – another emerging player with momentum on his side – takes the place of the more experienced Duncan Taylor, who seems to be still easing his way back to full fitness after a couple of injury-ravaged seasons.

“Chris has impressed us with his defensive reads at training,” Townsend said. “Whenever he’s had an opportunity to do full contact, he’s put weight into his tackles. We thought he had a good impact into the game in attack on Sunday and he’s earned that spot. Duncan brings a lot of experience and has played well now has a role to play off the bench this week.”