Scotland wary of Japan coming right at Murrayfield
EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — Gregor Townsend is preparing for Japan to unleash its best effort of the autumn against his Scotland on Saturday at Murrayfield.
It shouldn’t be hard.
Since pushing Australia all the way before losing in Oita in late October, Japan has had a shabby tour of Europe.
The Japanese lost to Ireland 60-5 and left Portugal with a flattering 38-25 win last weekend. Japan received a first-half try from a forward pass and, at the end, Portugal was setting up a last-gasp try from a two-on-one until fullback Ryohei Yamanaka intercepted 60 meters out and ran away to secure the result.
“I think you’ve got to look past that result they had against Ireland a couple of weeks ago because that was their second match after a few months’ gap, not just from international rugby but also from club rugby,” coach Townsend said.
“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.”
Scotland has autumn wins against Tonga and Australia but couldn’t stop world champion South Africa skipping away in the final quarter to win 30-15 last weekend.
Townsend changed half that side. Up front, prop Jamie Bhatti has a first start since August 2019, hooker George Turner and lock Scott Cummings return from injury, and No. 8 Josh Bayliss has a first start after a debut off the bench against Australia two weeks ago.
Lions flanker Hamish Watson is also back.
The only backline changes are recalls for inside center Sam Johnson and wing Darcy Graham.
Two reserves could make their debuts: Welsh-born prop Javan Sebastian and South Africa-born back-rower Dylan Richardson. They have Scottish fathers.
Japan coach Jamie Joseph has changed his first-choice props to Asaeli Ai Valu and Craig Millar from the Portugal game, and retained former captain Michael Leitch on the flank.
Rikiya Matsuda is preferred to Yu Tamura at flyhalf, Shogo Nakano has kept out Timothy Lafaele at center after a try on debut against Portugal, and Kotaro Matsushima is back on the wing.
“Scotland have really improved since we last played them at the (2019) World Cup (and won 28-21),” Joseph said.
“Their players who were quite young during the World Cup are now senior members and they have changed their game a lot. They’re quite keen to run the ball, which is the way forward.”
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (captain), Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Duhan van der Merwe, Finn Russell, Ali Price; Josh Bayliss, Hamish Watson, Jamie Ritchie, Grant Gilchrist, Scott Cummings, Zander Fagerson, George Turner, Jamie Bhatti. Reserves: Stuart McInally, Pierre Schoeman, Javan Sebastian, Sam Skinner, Dylan Richardson, Matt Fagerson, George Horne, Blair Kinghorn.
Japan: Ryohei Yamanaka, Kotaro Matsushima, Shogo Nakano, Ryoto Nakamura, Siosaia Fifita, Rikiya Matsuda, Yutaka Nagare; Kazuki Himeno, Pieter Labuschagne (captain), Michael Leitch, James Moore, Jack Cornelsen, Asaeli Ai Valu, Atsushi Sakate, Craig Millar. Reserves: Kosuke Horikoshi, Keita Inagaki, Shinnosuke Kakinaga, Ben Gunter, Tevita Tatafu, Naoto Saito, Yu Tamura, Dylan Riley.
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