Need to Know: Japan v Scotland match preview (Summer Test 2)

KO 11.20am (7.20pm local time)
Saturday 25th June
Ajinomoto Stadium, Tokyo
Live on BBC2 Scotland

These Japan v Scotland fixtures are like buses. Not so much the waiting for ages then two come along at once, more that they’re dull, worthy and not really how you want to spend your day when England, Oz, Ireland et al are, comparatively speaking, hooning around in Ferraris. Two wins from two is the minimum acceptable outcome for the Scots and will allow them to go into November Tests against Australia and Argentina in the right frame of mind.


15 Rikiya Matsuda
14 Male Sau
13 Tim Bennetts
12 H Tatekawa (c)
11 Yasutaka Sasakura
10 Yu Tamura
9 Kaito Shigeno
15 Stuart Hogg
14 Tommy Seymour
13 Matt Scott
12 Peter Horne
11 Sean Maitland
10 Ruaridh Jackson
9 Henry Pyrgos (c)

1 Keita Inagaki

2 Shota Horie
3 Kensuke Hatakeyama
4 Hitoshi Ono
5 Naohiro Kotaki
6 Hendrik Tui
7 Shoukei Kin
8 Amanaki Mafi

1 Rory Sutherland
2 Stuart McInally
3 Moray Low
4 Jonny Gray
5 Richie Gray
6 Josh Strauss
7 John Barclay
8 Ryan Wilson

16 Takeshi Kizu

17 Masataka Mikami
18 S Kakinaga
19 Kotaro Yatabe
20 Ryu Holani
21 Keisuke Uchida
22 Kosei Ono
23 Paea Mifi Poseti

16 Fraser Brown
17 Gordon Reid
18 WP Nel
19 Tim Swinson
20 John Hardie
21 Greig Laidlaw
22 Huw Jones
23 Sean Lamont


Team Talk
Vern Cotter makes six changes from the side that won the first Test against Japan with Duncan Taylor (injured), Damien Hoyland, Greig Laidlaw, Alasdair Dickinson (injured) and WP Nel all replaced by players who were on the subs bench lat time out and Josh Strauss getting his first action of the tour ahead of John Hardie.

Assuming he uses his full bench, the Scotland coach will have given game time to all 27 players who travelled in the initial squad bar the luckless Ross Ford – a calf strain means he’ll remain one short of his century of caps for at least another four months. With just Damien Hoyland and David Denton left as cover to warm up with the squad the coaching staff will be praying there are no last minute injuries prior to kick off in Tokyo.

There are just two changes for Japan and both sides’ fitness will be tested by another international in hot and humid conditions – it will be around 25 degrees in Tokyo. Keep an eye out for the remarkable Hitoshi Ono – ‘The Iron Man’ – in the Japanese second row. Even at 38 and with the full 80 behind him last week he will still be one of the hardest working players on the pitch.

Previous results

Last week’s result extended Scotland’s record in this fixture to six wins and no losses but it was the smallest margin of victory in any of those games.

  • 1991 Scotland 47-9 Japan (Murrayfield – RWC)
  • 2003 Scotland 32-11 Japan (Townsville – RWC)
  • 2004 Scotland 100-8 Japan (McDiarmid Park)
  • 2013 Scotland 42-17 Japan (Murrayfield)
  • 2015 Scotland 45-10 Japan (Kingsholm – RWC)
  • 2016 Japan 13-26 Scotland (Toyota Stadium)


Key stats

The Good

Possession – Scotland 64%
The Scots dominated the ball and controlled the play, preventing Japan from imposing their high-tempo gameplan on the match for long periods. It’s likely to be another controlled performance this week, although Henry Pyrgos may vary the pace a bit more from scrum half.

Penalty count 16-11 in Scotland’s favour
With a young ref the penalty count was always likely to be higher – the crucial factor being it was +5 to Scotland – in addition to a penalty try and a yellow card against their opponents. Discipline was generally good (although ball protection was at times lacking leading to a number of penalties for holding on the ground).

The Bad

Setpieces lost – Scotland 4
Losing Al Dickinson so early was a blow but conceding possession at 2 scrums will not have gone down well. Both lineout losses were due to overthrows in dangerous positions. If dominance isn’t available up front it may boost the chances of looking to the backs to get over the gain line at scrum time.

Mauls – Scotland 8 from 8
There may have been no concession of possession from mauls but they were nowhere near as effective as they should have been, remaining static and with very little movement to try and roll them round the defensive set-up – even when set up with half the backline involved…

The Ugly

Clean breaks – Scotland 3 (from 114 carries)

The dark blues struggled to get through the Japanese line from start to finish. With the defence spreading out from the breakdown and moving up fast, it’s up to the forwards to be more direct with their possession and force the Brave Blossoms to commit more men to prevent Scotland breaking through the middle.

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Brendan Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)

Given the number of Glasgow players in the Scotland 23 it’s rather discouraging to consider the Warriors disciplinary record with Mr. Mitrea in charge – the penalty count is 68-42 against them in recent seasons and the Italian whistler has yellow carded 5 of their players (none for the opposition). Ryan Wilson is still on a hat-trick (of sorts) after being sin binned by Mr. Mitrea twice already this season.

With Damien Hoyland not involved this week there’s no reunion for 2 of the 3 main participants in one of the bigger refereeing blunders of the season. Maybe slightly unfortunate given that Mr. Mitrea must surely feel that he owes Damo one if there had been any close decisions out on the wing…

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