SCOTLAND’S clash with Japan was probably the most entertaining game of rugby I have watched for many years.

The Japanese were absolutely superb. The speed at which they moved the ball, and changed the point of attack was impossible to defend at times; it was like watching Barbarians highlights from the 80s!

The key thing that stood out for me was their ability to accurately handle the ball on the gain line. You can tell that these players are used to the humidity, and the effect it has on ball-handling, their skillset has accordingly adjusted.

On top of their brilliant attacking structures, the Cherry Blossoms defence, led by inspirational captain Michael Leitch stifled the Scottish attack for the majority of the game.

To their credit, Scotland came back into the tie in the second half. It was reminiscent of the 2019 Calcutta Cup Match.

Scotland will be bitterly disappointed to have not made it out of the group, but they can have no complaints. They were poor against Ireland in the opening match, and on Sunday they were simply outplayed.

For the likes of Greig Laidlaw, Gordon Reid, WP Nel, John Barclay and Sean Maitland, it is hard to see them making the 2023 tournament.

The Scots will take confidence in some of the younger players coming through, namely Jamie Ritchie and Magnus Bradbury in the back-row. Darcy Graham is sure to have a bright future on the wing, and it would be great to see Carlisle-born Chris Harris cement his place in the midfield.

It is always good to see home nations progressing in tournaments; it helps the ‘buzz’ build.

World Rugby took the tournament to Japan to help grow the game, you have to say on the evidence of Sunday, it has paid dividends.

Sixty million people tuned in to watch the game at the Yokahama stadium. Many pundits are now calling for the Japanese to build on their legacy from this tournament, and join either the Six Nations or the Rugby Championship.

World Rugby has a tough decision to make.

Elite players are already playing too many games a year, and if Japan were to join the Six Nations for example, it would raise the question of promotion / relegation - which you can be sure Italy and Scotland would be fighting against.

The only way you could accommodate Japan, and make it a Seven Nations, would be by trimming the domestic leagues. The issue here is that most clubs run at a loss and taking more domestic games from the calendar is only going to increase the financial pressure.

Eddie Jones claimed he was happy with the extra-time to prepare for this weekend’s quarter-final against Australia.

The issue England have is that the three games they have played so far have all been straightforward, they haven’t had a real test.

A worry would be that they are undercooked. The positive from the postponement against France is that with Billy and Mako Vunipola, Jack Nowell and Henry Slade are all nursing injuries, it affords them more time to recover.

The Wallabies have been well below par so far in Japan. Their discipline has been really poor and, apart from a good 40 minutes against Wales, they have struggled to find any real form.

In players like Nick White, Will Genia, Kurtley Beale, Michael Hooper and David Pocock, Australia have some top players.

England are favourites for this game. Providing Ben Youngs can bring our dominant forward carriers like Kyle Sinckler, Billy Vunipola and Jamie George into the game, England will have the Aussie defence retreating. Add to that getting quick ball into Manu Tuilagi’s hands, no defence in the world would want the job of stopping him at full pace.

There is no love lost between Michael Cheika and Eddie Jones - it will be interesting to see who will come out on top of this tactical battle.

New Zealand against Ireland, based on current performance, is only going to go one way. The All Blacks have played some scintillating rugby so far.

On the contrary, Ireland have looked a shadow of their former selves. Ireland have beaten New Zealand twice in the last couple of years, but it is hard to imagine a repeat of that this weekend.

Wales against France will be a close contest. France have a big, dominant pack. If there is an area of the Welsh game that the French will target it will be the scrum.

Wales go into the game as favourites but this will be a close one to call.

Despite how fantastically Japan performed against Scotland, South Africa are a different beast.

The Boks will be much more physical, and their set piece will really test the Japanese.

If Japan can keep getting as quick a ball as they did against Scotland they will be in with a chance.

n Interview: Tony Harrison