Gregor Townsend wants no mistakes when Scotland host Japan at Murrayfield on Saturday.
The hosts suffered defeat to South Africa last time out and the head coach doesn’t want a repeat of the 2019 World Cup, when Japan shocked Scotland. “I expect a similar challenge to the one they presented us two years ago. I coached the team that day and I was part of the Lions coaching staff in the summer and they played very well the more they got into the game, especially in the second half,” he said in the lead-up to the game.
“They’ll be better for having spent time together and having had three Test matches over the past month. We’re going to see their best performance of the campaign, that’s for sure. It’s up to us to deliver our best performance on the other side.”
Stuart Hogg equalled the all-time record for scoring tries with the national team last weekend and will look to set the record outright this time out – hopefully in victory this time, after he was unable to enjoy the experience against the Springboks due to the eventual result.
Scotland have already hammered Tonga and narrowly beat Australia, before their defeat last week.
Follow live updates, build-up, analysis and reaction from Twickenham in this colossal match-up
Player to watch – Shogo Nakano
The dextrous Timothy Lafaele has filled the Japanese thirteen jersey superbly in the last few years, but Jamie Joseph has found a viable alternative in Shogo Nakano. Long regarded as one of the brighter prospects coming through the at-times inhibitive domestic system in Japan, Nakano showed his ability with a try on debut last week, a shimmy and shrug out of a tackle after taking a short line 25 metres out and showing plenty of toe to get over.
Regarded as a similarly audacious off-loader in the thirteen channel, he’ll provide a handful for Chris Harris, much as the Scotland 13 is a fine defender. Japan are rarely afraid to be creative in attack (fly-half Rikiya Matsuda produced one particularly lovely dinky kick to help set up a try for Siosaia Fifita last week) so it will be intriguing to see what they throw at this Scotland side.
Player to watch – Sam Johnson
The international career of Sam Johnson is becoming something of a curiosity. Scotland seldom look a worse team with the inside centre playing, an effective carrier with sharp linking hands, but there is always a sense that Johnson is never quite settled within the side. He was left out last week in favour of a more abrasive midfield pairing of Matt Scott and Chris Harris – and a possible concern over a head knock suffered a week prior – but returns to combine in creative partnership with Finn Russell.
When Cameron Redpath is back fit you would suspect he will re-take the 12 jumper, but Johnson has plenty of good qualities. Harris has talked up his centre partner’s role in making him feel comfortable in a crucial defensive combination in Scotland’s much-improved defence under Steve Tandy.
Player to watch – Kazuki Himeno
The captain and ex-captain may immediately draw the eye in the Japan back row but Kazuki Himeno is arguably the star of a lively triumvirate. Beautifully well-rounded and hard-working, Himeno is strong through contact and underrated over the ball – the battle of the breakdown will be key, as ever, in a game in which both sides will wish for speedy ruck ball.
He had a quiet-ish game, by his standards, last week against Portugal but Himeno had a promising spell with the Highlanders in New Zealand earlier this year, and he’s regarded as a potential future leader of this side having captained Toyota Verblitz as a youngster. Himeno will be one of Japan’s chief threats.
Player to watch – Josh Bayliss
There hasn’t been too much good to come out of Bath so far this season. Stuart Hooper’s side are rooted to the bottom of the Gallagher Premiership after seven consecutive defeats to begin the campaign, with veteran administrator Ed Griffiths, formerly of Saracens, brought in to consult and reportedly ready to swing the axe, which may see the end of both Hooper and CEO Tarquin McDonald.
Yet out of the Rec wreckage has emerged another international debutant – Josh Bayliss made his Scotland bow off the bench against Australia two weeks ago but earns a first start at number eight this afternoon. Quick over the ground and possessing an outstanding workrate, Bayliss offers something different in the back row for Gregor Townsend. This will be a tough first start, though – Japan have a refined, skilful, tough back row.
Scotland vs Japan
Big day of rugby
This is a proper day of rugby, starting at 1pm GMT and running throughout an explosive afternoon of five rather sizeable men’s games and a couple of properly intriguing women’s games, too, including the Black Ferns’ attempt to avoid a fourth successive defeat as they face France in Castres.
We’ll have live coverage of four of the men’s games (with our apologies to the rather exciting meeting between Kieran Crowley’s intriguing Italy and a spritely Uruguay), starting with Scotland-Japan and following on through England against South Africa, with Wales and Australia and then France’s men against the All Blacks to finish it all off. Strap. In…
Team News – Japan
Japan made a little history last week as they beat Portugal in the first ever meeting between the Brave Blossoms and the Iberian
side. Lappies Labuschagne was rested for that encounter but returns to lead Japan for what should be a significantly stronger Scotland.
Labuschagne is part of an outstanding back-row trio with ex-skipper Michael Leitch and the talented Kazuki Himeno. Behind the scrum, Shogo Nakano was a try-scorer on debut in Lisbon and retains his place at outside centre. Kotaro Matsushima’s flashing feet are ever eye-catching, with the Clermont Auvergne dazzler on the right wing, but Scotland will also be wary of Siosaia Fifita’s more direct threat down the touchine.
There’s a fair bit of punch on Jamie Joseph’s bench, too, most prominently in the hulking form of Thai-born Ben Gunter and Tevita Tatafu.
Team News – Scotland
Scotland make seven changes to the starting side beaten by South Africa last weekend. Scott Cummings makes his first appearance of the autumn in the second row and loosehead Jamie Bhatti his first Scotland start in more than two years. Hamish Watson is restored on the openside, with vice-captain Jamie Ritchie back on the blind and Josh Bayliss, on his first Scotland start, completing the back row.
Darcy Graham adds the lightning to Duhan van der Merwe’s thunder on the two wings while Sam Johnson is back at inside centre to help knit things together.
There are two potential debutants lurking among a 6-2 bench: Javan Sebastian is a Welsh-based tighthead who has had to fight hard to earn this opportunity, while Dylan Richardson is the latest South African-born Scot to boost this side, a muscular openside flanker, who can also cover hooker in a pinch, who impressed for the Junior Springboks.
Scotland vs Japan latest odds
Van der Merwe 11/2
Talking points ahead of Scotland vs Japan
Scotland host Japan in their fourth and final Test of the Autumn Nations Series on Saturday.
Here, the PA news agency looks at the talking points ahead of the game at Murrayfield including a revenge mission, a chance for Josh Bayliss and attempts to finish on a high.
World Cup revenge mission to round off 2021 – Scotland v Japan talking points
This is the first meeting between the teams since Scotland were eliminated from the World Cup.
Source: Read Full Article