Preview: Japan v Scotland

Date published: June 24 2016

Japan will look to improve their disciplinary record when they take on Scotland at the Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo this weekend.

Japan lost the first game of their two game series against Scotland 26-13 in Tokyo last week.

The Brave Blossoms looked like the better side for most of the first half. Two yellow cards set them back by 14 points, however, with a penalty try and another five-pointer by Scotland prop WP Nel that could have been defended against if there were 15 men in red on the field. 

Before their disciplinary decline, the Japanese side were playing brilliant running rugby, a microcosm of which was when Japan captain Shota Horie scored after a masterful line-break and offload from number eight Amanaki Mafi. They will want to refine this form to impress the royal presence of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko who, for the first time ever, will attend a Brave Blossoms game. 

Scotland emerged out of the game as winners and not just on the scoreboard. They dominated the possession as they kept 64 percent of the ball. They also successfully made 126 passes opposed to Japan's 86, which shows that Vern Cotter's charges made great use of their lion's share of the possession.   

Cotter has decided to rotate a lot of his squad for this clash. Peter Horne replaces the injured Duncan Taylor in midfield, where he forms a partnership with Matt Scott. In an interesting selection Henry Pygros takes over the nine jersey, the captaincy and kicking responsibilities from Scottish stalwart Greig Laidlaw, who drops to the bench. Stormers centre Huw Jones has been named as a replacement.

Japan coach Jamie Joseph has made two changes to his starting line-up. Male Sa’u returns from injury and is picked on the wing and Rikiya Matsuda is promoted from the bench for the game at Ajinomoto Stadium.

Players to watch:

For Japan: Following last week's game Amanaki Mafi is definitely someone to keep an eye on. The Tongan-born number eight teared through the Scottish defence last week. He gained 87 metres and gave two offloads. He defended like a man possessed and raegistered 11 tackles. Japan will look to the big loose-forward to get them on the front foot. 

For Scotland: If Stuart Hogg’s run of form continues he’s definitely a man to watch. Hogg, who rarely has a bad game for his country, was superb last week. He proved a handful for the Japan defence last week as he made 87 metres, gave away two offloads and beat four defenders.

Head to head: The midfield duel should be interestingl considering Matt Scott and Harumichi Tatekawa pair off against each other. Scott had an incredible game across the board last weekend and expect another fine performance in the 12 jersey from the Gloucester-bound man. He was steadfast in defence as he made six tackles, and was even better on attack breaking the line once, beating three defenders and making 54 metres. Similarly Tatekawa was superb allround. The Sunwolves centre was immense defensively making 11 tackles. He was a handful for the Scottish defence with a linebreak and two defenders beaten.  

Prediction: Even if Japan's discipline improves, Scotland know what it takes to beat the Japanese at home and will meet the home side's running rugby with a conservative kicking game. Scotland by 10. 

Previous results:

2016: Scotland won 26-13 in Tokyo
2015: Scotland won 45-10 in Gloucester
2013: Scotland won 42-17 in Edinburgh
2010: Scotland XV won 24-5 in Edinburgh (uncapped match)
2004: Scotland won 100-8 in Perth
2003: Scotland won 11-32 in Townsville
1991: Scotland won 47-9 in Edinburgh
1989: Japan won 28-24 in Tokyo (uncapped match)
1986: Scotland XV won 33-18 in Edinburgh (uncapped match)
1977: Scotland XV won 9-74 in Tokyo (uncapped match)
1976: Scotland XV won 34-9 in Edinburgh (uncapped match)

The Teams:

Japan: 15 Rikiya Matsuda, 14 Male Sa'u, 13 Tim Bennetts, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Yasutaka Sasakura, 10 Yu Tamara, 9 Kaito Shigeno, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Shoukei Kin, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Naohiro Kotaki, 4 Hitoshi Ono, 3 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 2 Shota Horie (c), 1 Keita Inagaki
Replacements: 16 Takeishi Kizu, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 19 Kotaro Yatabe, 20 Ryu Kolinasi Holani, 21 Keisuke Uchida, 22 Kosei Ono, 23 Mifi Poseti Paea

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Peter Horne, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Henry Pyrgos (c), 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 John Barclay, 6 Josh Strauss, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Moray Low, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Rory Sutherland
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Willem Nel, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 John Hardie, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Huw Jones, 23 Sean Lamont

Date: Saturday, June 25
Venue: Ajinomoto Stadium, Tokyo
Kick-off: 19:20 local (10:20 GMT)
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand), Brendan Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)