TOKYO, 6 Oct - When Japan coach Jamie Joseph looked for finishers to clinch the crucial bonus point against Samoa on Saturday night, he turned yet again to Fumiaki Tanaka.

For the third time in as many matches the veteran scrum-half, pictured, came off the bench to play a vital role in the final quarter as the Brave Blossoms scored a fourth try in added time to emerge 38-19 victors and return to the top of Pool A.

All eight replacements had taken the field, but Tanaka, 34, was quick to pay tribute to the starting XV.

"It's not much to do with me, but rather with those forwards and (fellow scrum-half Yutaka) Nagare starting the game," he said. "It's not me being quick, just the opposing team being tired. The entire team are creating that state and I've been able to play comfortably."

In the match against Ireland, Tanaka picked up the ball from a maul to kick-start the move that laid the foundations for Kenki Fukuoka's decisive try. 

In the 65th minute against Samoa, he showed he was not just an able passer of the ball as he quickly regained possession by charging down his opposing number, Dwayne Polataivao.

"Even at that moment (Timothy) Lafaele and Fukuoka pushed the opposing players away to not let them form the ruck so I could put on the pressure," said Tanaka, who is playing in his third World Cup.

"Many people came to me after the game and said, 'Nice tackle', but it's all down to my team-mates doing their jobs before it. That one was also thanks to the collective power of the team."

With the prize of a quarter-final place within their grasp, Japan will tread the same path as they have for the past three years under coach Joseph. And they are in a much better place than they were at RWC 2015 when they were beaten 45-10 by Scotland.

"I'm not thinking of the last tournament at all," said Tanaka. "Personal emotions start to dictate once I start thinking about those things. As we have been doing, we need to fight as a team listening to the analysis of the coaches, finding the strength and weakness of the opposition and prepare to do the best we can. 

"Change one thing and that will stop the positive flow of things. We have to prepare and give 100 per cent on the field."

Like Japan four years ago, Scotland will have a three-day turnaround before they meet next Sunday in Yokohama in the last match of the pool stage, which is being billed as the "the final" within the Japanese camp.

Tanaka, who started all four games in England, knows what his side must avoid.

"(Greig) Laidlaw is a very good kicker and, if we give away penalties, he will score three points that will hand over the momentum to them," he said of the man who kicked four penalties in the first 19 minutes four years ago.

"The chance of a win will be higher if we can cut the penalties."

RNS mn/mj/sw