Japan and Scotland experience contrasting fortunes since Rugby World Cup showdown

Scotland and Japan have experienced vastly contrasting fortunes since the fateful day in Yokohama when the Scots were eliminated at the group stage of a World Cup for only the second time in the competition’s history.

Japan went down heavily to Ireland in Dublin earlier this month. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Gregor Townsend’s side have improved hugely in the intervening two years while Jamie Joseph’s Japan have been starved of Test rugby.

Travel restrictions brought on by Covid have severely limited their opportunities to build on reaching the quarter-finals in 2019.

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They had a decent hit-out against the British and Irish Lions in Edinburgh in June but they suffered a crushing defeat 60-5 loss to Ireland in Dublin a fortnight ago.

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“In the first year of Covid, the year following the World Cup, we played absolutely no rugby,” said Joseph. “Then we played a couple of games in July after very little training. It has affected our team and the domestic game as well. It is an uncontrollable so we haven’t really worried too much about it, but it does highlight that we are behind in comparison to Scotland.

“Scotland have gone from strength to strength and played some really good rugby in the Six Nations. They beat Australia and they were unlucky not to beat South Africa. They are a team that is growing and developing. But that creates a massive opportunity for us to play our footy at Murrayfield at the weekend.”

Japan have brought back captain and flanker Pieter Labuschagne and scrum-half Yutaka Nagare after they were rested for the 38-25 win over Portugal last weekend.

Centre Shogo Nakano, who scored a try on debut against Portugal, has kept his place, as has stand-off Rikiya Matsuda.

Japan (v Scotland, BT Murrayfield, Saturday, 1pm)

15 Ryohei Yamanaka

14 Kotaro Matsushima

13 Shogo Nakano

12 Ryoto Nakamura

11 Siosaia Fifita

10 Rikiya Matsuda

9 Yutaka Nagare

1 Craig Millar

2 Atsushi Sakate

3 Asaeli Ai Valu

4 Jack Cornelsen

5 James Moore

6 Michael Leitch

7 Pieter Labuschagne ©

8 Kazuki Himeno

Substitutes

16 Kosuke Horikoshi

17 Keita Inagaki

18 Shinnosuke Kakinaga

19 Ben Gunter

20 Tevita Tatafu

21 Naoto Saito

22 Yu Tamura

23 Dylan Riley

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