Roles reversed as Scots face tough World Cup schedule in Japan

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The last time Scotland faced Japan in the Rugby World Cup the Brave Blossoms were a bit hard done by in terms of the scheduling but the boot will be on the other foot in 2019.

Back in 2015, the Japanese had to face the Scots just three days after their seismic toppling of South Africa in Brighton. Vern Cotter’s men were playing their first game of the tournament that afternoon in Gloucester and, after a tight first half, pulled away to beat Eddie Jones’s tiring side 45-10.

Scotlands John Hardie plays a pass in the build-up to his try in the 45-10 victory over Japan during the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Picture: AFP/Getty

Scotlands John Hardie plays a pass in the build-up to his try in the 45-10 victory over Japan during the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Picture: AFP/Getty

Next time around it will be 2019 World Cup hosts Japan who have four days’ extra rest before facing the Scots, who will have a four-day turnaround for what could be a crucial final Pool A match in 
Yokohama.

Gregor Townsend’s side will open their campaign against top seeds Ireland in the same city on 22 September, before taking on the winners of the cross-continental play-off on 30 September at Kobe City Misaki Park Stadium. That play-off will involve Samoa, whom the Scots also met in the pool stage two years ago, narrowly beating them in Newcastle to reach the quarter-finals, and the second-placed team in the European qualifying, which is currently Spain.

The Scots then face the Europe 1 team – Romania lead the standings at the moment – on 9 October at the 50,889-capacity Shizuoka 
Stadium Ecopa in Fukuroi before returning to Yokohama to conclude their pool matches with that fixture against the hosts on 13 October.

Townsend will travel to Japan next month as he continues logistical World Cup planning and preparations.

“Obviously, there is a lot of excitement that comes with knowing who you’re playing, when and at what venues,” Townsend told www.scottishrugby.org.

“We’ll face a real challenge in all of our games, starting with Ireland, who are currently ranked fourth in the World Rugby rankings.

“Facing Ireland in the opening round really focuses the mind on just how big a challenge this tournament is going to be, on top of the prospect of facing the hosts, who had a brilliant World Cup in 2015.

“The tournament is very much on the horizon for our players and staff. The important thing will be to continue building and improving over the next two years.”

The final will be played in Yokohama on 2 November.

England will also face a four-day turnaround, although it will be for their opening games.

The match schedule sees England begin their quest for a first world title since 2003 against Tonga in Sapporo on 22 September.

They then face the United States 660 miles south of Sapporo on September 26 in Kobe, before a longer preparation period takes them into pivotal Pool C fixtures against Argentina in Tokyo on 5 October and then France a week later in 
Yokohama.

Once that arduous opening has passed, however, England will negotiate a kind itinerary that continues with pivotal clashes against Argentina in Tokyo on 5 October and France in Yokohama a week later.

Meanwhile, their heavyweight Pool C rivals must face each other on the opening weekend.

“If you were doing the ideal world and wanted to set it up, that’s how you’d want it. So we have no excuses,” said England coach Jones.

“Whatever the draw, you have to win four games.”