Scotland v Japan - Teams and Prediction
SAFFA SHOWDOWN: Japan and Scotland square off at BT Murrayfield looking to end their November Series campaigns on a high.
Scotland have endured a mixed bag of results – recording impressive wins over Tonga (60-14) and Australia (15-13) before going down 15-30 to world champions South Africa last weekend.
That match did at least see captain Stuart Hogg join Ian Smith and Tony Stanger as Scotland’s all-time joint-top try scorers as he dotted down for the 23rd and 24th times in the famous blue jersey.
An early Saturday kick-off against the Brave Blossoms gives Hogg and co the opportunity to make it three wins from four during this November Series, while also gaining revenge for the teams’ last meeting at the 2019 World Cup.
In Yokohama, a mesmerising Japan side triumphed 28-21 as Kenki Fukuoka’s try double, coupled with scores from Kotaro Matsushima and Keita Inagaki, spoilt the occasion of Scotland’s 700th Test match and ensured the Brave Blossoms’ first-ever win in the fixture.
Scotland Head Coach Gregor Townsend says his players are in no mood to slow down heading into their fourth and final @AutumnNations fixture against Japan on Saturday.
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— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) November 18, 2021
“Firstly, I think we are completely different team now [than when they lost to Japan in 2019],” Scotland scrumhalf George Horne said.
“We have developed our game a lot in the last couple of years and we are up there with the best teams in the world defensively.
“Hopefully we can put them under a lot of pressure and not let them play their offloading, expansive game.
“We kind of know what’s coming, we played them a couple of years ago. They’ve got a fairly similar team, but both teams are still a lot different. It’s not going to be anything like 2019, hopefully.”
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend said: “We have had a positive week as a squad and want to close out our November campaign with an improved performance against a Japan side we expect to challenge us from the outset on Saturday,”
Jamie Joseph’s troops will look to use that triumph to inspire a positive finish to a tough 2021 that has seen them lose to the British & Irish Lions, Ireland (twice) and Australia – although they did secure a hard-fought 38-25 victory over Portugal last weekend.
Japan head coach Jamie Joseph: “The team is really looking forward to the Test match on Saturday. We’ve had a good week in terms of our preparation and have enjoyed being back in Edinburgh.
“Scotland have really improved since we last played them at the World Cup. They’ve played a lot of Test matches, with two Six Nations and some very strong performance in the lead-up to this weekend.
“Their players who were quite young during the World Cup are now senior members of their team and they have changed their game a lot. They’re quite keen to run the ball, which is the way forward.”
Japan coach Joseph has highlighted the back row as the battlefield on which the Test match could be won and lost.
“We’re expecting a big contest in the loose forwards, where Scotland have shown a lot of improvement,” he explained.
“Their back row are strong in defence and at the breakdown, and are very good at jackaling and slowing the ball down.
“We’ll have to be very accurate at the breakdown, but we have an experienced back row in Leitch, Lappies and Himeno, so it’s going to be a big part of the match.”
Player to watch:
For Scotland: With the breakdown regarded as one of the key battles for this match, there will be loads on eyes on Josh Bayliss, who makes his first start for Scotland at No.8, and Edinburgh flanks Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson. In the backline, captain Stuart Hogg is always a major threat. Wing Duhan van der Merwe is another strong runner that will be a concern for Japan. On the bench Sharks flank Dylan Richardson and Pierre Schoeman that much needed power.
For Japan: Captain Pieter Labuschagne returns to the starting line-up after being rested last weekend against Portugal. His fellow flank and former captain Michael Leitch is always one to feliver a top performcnes. In the backline wing Kotaro Matsushima is an exciting player and will be out a major threat out wide.
Head to head
Scotland versus Japan
@rugby365com: Scotland by five points.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg (captain), 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Josh Bayliss, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 George Turner, 1 Jamie Bhatti.
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Dylan Richardson, 21 Matt Fagerson, 22 George Horne, 23 Blair Kinghorn.
Japan: 15 Ryohei Yamanaka, 13 Shogo Nakano, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Siosaia Fifita, 10 Rikiya Matsuda, 9 Yutaka Nagare, 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Pieter Labuschagne (captain), 6 Michael Leitch, 5 James Moore, 4 Jack Cornelsen, 3 Asaeli Ai Valu, 2 Atsushi Sakate, 1 Craig Millar.
Replacements: 16 Kosuke Horikoshi, 17 Keita Inagaki, 18 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 19 Ben Gunter, 20 Tevita Tatafu, 21 Naoto Saito, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Dylan Riley.
Date: Saturday, November 20
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 13.00 (13.00 GMT; 22.00 JST)
Expected weather: It’s set to be mostly cloudy with a chance of light rain and a slight breeze. High of 12°C and a low of 3°C.
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Stuart Berry (South Africa)