RWC Preview: Japan v Scotland

RWC Preview: Japan v Scotland

Japan versus Scotland could end up being the most talked-about match that never was.


Typhoon Hagibis, which has already led to two Rugby World Cup fixtures being cancelled, is primed to wipe out the decisive Pool A clash in Yokohama on Sunday.

It would mean the points are shared, two apiece, and almost certainly spell the end for Gregor Townsend's side, with Ireland highly likely to defeat Samoa on Saturday.

However, Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson said the organisation had received a legal opinion that "unravels" World Rugby's case after the global governing body insisted matches could not be rescheduled. 

A final decision will be made on the morning of the game and, assuming it goes ahead, Scotland would need to bridge a gap of four points to overhaul the hosts.

That opens up a number of permutations as there are try-scoring and losing bonus points up for grabs, but if the teams should finish level in the group Scotland would progress on the basis of winning the head-to-head contest.

Japan go into the match with three wins from as many games, stunning world number ones Ireland in the process, leading coach Jamie Joseph to insist they would much rather play the match than qualify by default.

"I'd like to remind people it hasn't been a fluke," he said, with Japan having been eliminated in the pool phase behind Scotland four years ago despite winning three times, including a famous triumph over South Africa.

"We have played and won three Test matches, and that has put us in the best position in our pool.

"It has been a lot of hard work by a lot of people. This team has been in camp for 240 days this year alone.

"Everyone in our squad – players and staff – wants to play the Test match."

Scotland were lacklustre in an opening defeat to Ireland but have bounced back with consecutive wins, thrashing Samoa and Russia without conceding a point.

Greig Laidlaw will lead the 2015 quarter-finalists, with Michael Leitch returning to take the armband for the Brave Blossoms. 

George Horne, who scored a hat-trick against Russia, has to settle for a place on the bench alongside Stuart McInally. 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Japan – Kotaro Matsushima

Matsushima has scored four tries, leading the way for Japan, and grabbed himself an eye-catching hat-trick in the win over Russia. Explosively quick and incredibly agile, he will pose a major threat to Scotland.

Scotland – Greig Laidlaw

Laidlaw needs six points to become only the third Scotland player to tally 100 Rugby World Cup points, following in the illustrious footsteps of Gavin Hastings and Chris Paterson. Expect a highly motivated Scotland skipper on Sunday.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Japan and Scotland have met seven times before in full Test matches, Scotland winning all of those clashes. Japan did win a game against a Scottish XV in 1989 in Tokyo but caps were not awarded to both sets of players.

- Scotland have won all three previous meetings with Japan in the Rugby World Cup, scoring 17 tries and conceding just three in the process.

- Scotland beat Japan 45-10 at Kingsholm (Gloucester) when they met at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, since then they have met in two Test matches, both in Japan in June 2016, the visitors winning both.

- Japan are aiming to make it out of the pool stages of a Rugby World Cup for the first time in their history. They come into the game on the back of five successive victories in the competition, having won just two of their initial 26 matches (D2, L22).

- Scotland beat Russia 61-0 in their last game, becoming the first side to win back-to-back Rugby World Cup games without conceding a point.

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