Javan Sebastian and Dylan Richardson can both expect to make their international debuts at Murrayfield after being named among the replacements for the Scots’ final match of the Autumn Nations Series.
For Sebastian, it caps an eventful week in which his partner, Kaylee, gave birth to their son, Marcellus.
The Scarlets prop has been travelling back and forth between Edinburgh and Wales during the international window, explained Townsend.
“He’s had a busy old time these last two weeks because his wife was due to give birth two or three days ago, but on his first day up in camp two or three weeks ago, the contractions started,” said the Scotland coach. “So, he was only able to stay one day.
“But it has taken a while and his partner gave birth to a baby boy on Tuesday and the day before he’d found out he was in the Scotland squad, so it has been a big week for him.
“This week he committed to staying up even though he knew that this could be the time his partner was going to give birth.
“The timing was pretty good in that we announced the team on the Tuesday, he trained, she was in the hospital on Tuesday night but the baby didn’t arrive until Wednesday. He was tuned in on facetime and you can imagine how delighted he has been. He is buzzing for the weekend. All is well and partner and baby are back home.”
The Carmarthen-born tighthead first appeared on Townsend’s radar when he was coach of Glasgow Warriors. The former Wales under-16 and under-18 international was signed to Glasgow on a partnership contract in the 2015-16 season and was farmed out to Ayr. Now 27, Townsend feels he has matured into a prop ready for the rigours of international rugby.
“I worked with Javan a few years ago at Glasgow,” said the Scotland coach. “He was mainly playing for Ayr at the time. He played a couple of A games for us.
“He went pretty well at Ayr. He was a young player at the time, and I think he won player of the season, or forward of the season.
“His scrum stood out back then. He did need to work on his conditioning, and he was a late developer like a lot of props are.
“He went back to Wales to play club rugby, I think with Carmarthen, then got a contract with Scarlets, and last season was excellent when he played well for them to get regular game time.
“I approached him after the Six Nations because I genuinely felt he could play Test level, get to near the top of our depth chart, and he was delighted to be offered the opportunity.
“His dad is from Edinburgh, and still lives here I believe.”
He was part of Scotland’s summer squad but was denied a cap when the tour to eastern Europe was scrapped due to Covid.
Richardson also qualifies through an Edinburgh-father and the South African-born flanker has been with the Scotland set-up throughout the autumn and is likely to see action against Japan.
“Dylan’s been here for the whole campaign,” said Townsend. “We’re grateful to the Sharks for allowing him to train within our mini camp we had before we played Tonga.
“He’s impressed us with his professionalism, his ability to learn quickly and his speed. He’s an openside flanker who could play blindside and can also carry ball, very similar to the other guys in that position, Hamish Watson, Luke Crosbie, Jamie Ritchie at the weekend and Rory Darge who was in line to be involved before his injury.”
Bayliss will start against Japan at No 8 as Scotland looks to expand their back-row options ahead of the Six Nations. Matt Fagerson has made the position his own over the last year or so but Townsend is keen to try Bayliss there after being impressed by him at Bath.
“We’re looking for him to transfer his club form into the international arena,” said the coach. “The fact that he brings a real point of difference, which is his speed. That’ll be really important this weekend against Japan who play fast and we aspire to play quickly too.
“Primarily up until this season we thought of him as a seven, but he’s played a few games for Bath at eight and done really well.
“He had a little cameo off the bench against Australia and had a couple of big impacts. We feel he can do that from a starting position this week. He gives us a chance to manage the back row. We managed Hamish last week and this week he comes back in. This week Matt will come off the bench having played three Tests in a row.”
Watson, who was on the bench last weekend against South Africa, starts at seven, with Jamie Ritchie moving back to blindside.
Graham returns on the right wing in place of Rufus McLean and Johnson is recalled at inside centre, with Matt Scott dropping out.
There are three other changes to the XV which started the 30-15 loss to the Springboks. Prop Jamie Bhatti comes in for his first Scotland start in almost two-and-a-half years, with Pierre Schoeman dropping to the bench. George Turner is back at hooker after recovering from a popped rib and Scott Cummings gets his first outing of the autumn following surgery on a hand injury.
It’s Scotland’s first meeting with Japan since the 2019 Rugby World Cup when the Brave Blossoms won 28-21 to eliminate Townsend’s side at the group stage.