Scotland will face Japan, who are without inspirational captain Michael Leitch and World Cup hero Ayumu Goromaru, in the first of two Tests in Tokyo on Saturday.
Vern Cotter’s men head into this opening game knowing that the last time these two sides met Scotland got the win by 45-10 in the World Cup.
A victory for Scotland this time around won’t come easy as Japan is known to never back down even if the result seems out of their reach.
Japan, as a nation, have been gaining valuable experience, both on and off the field, with the bulk of their squad playing for newly formed Super Rugby side, the Sunwolves.
Despite being on the receiving end of some big scores, the game time that the Sunwolves are getting, along with adjusting to the hectic travelling schedule, will be invaluable to Japanese rugby and will certainly help boost their confidence heading into this Test series.
The Brave Blossoms interim and Sunwolves head coach Mark Hammett has been in the favourable position to have worked with the bulk of his players. They have also been coming up against the best of the Southern Hemisphere’s sides, which will allow Hammett to bud new talent and also fine tune some areas of concern.
Scotland will in all likelihood want to exert their physicality over Japan, especially at the scrum and breakdown, with the likes of Willem Nel, Alasdair Dickinson and Ross Ford possessing the ability to lay a solid platform for the backs.
On the other side, Japan will have to minimise mistakes and unneccesary handling errors which could allow the visitors to run in a few easy tries.
However, the home side’s spirited and brave fighting back ability is not to be under-rated and although they may not have the history books favouring them, backing themselves in Tokyo will be crucial if they are to claim an upset.
The boot of Greig Laidlaw, given that Japan are without their star kicker, Goromaru, will in all likelihood be a notable difference in these Tests. Laidlaw, who will captain the side as well, is known for his accurate place kicking and will make Japan pay for any mistakes.
The dangerous and evasive Scotland backs will also cause Japan problems, if the forwards get the upper hand over their opponents, which is why the home side will have to be strong in defence. Any error in this department could see them gather behind their try line regularly.
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)
POSSIBLE RR World Rankings outcome on Result
|Japan (on 75.35 points) at home -vs- Scotland (on 77.45 points)|
|Possible Outcome||Rating Point||New JAP||New SCO||Will JAP|
|If JAP win by 1-15 points||0.91||76.26||76.54||No|
|If JAP win by more than 15||1.365||76.71||76.09||Yes|
|If result is a draw||0.09||75.26||77.54||No|
|If SCO win by 1-15 points||1.09||74.26||78.54||No|
|If SCO win by more than 15||1.635||73.71||79.09||No|
Japan: 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Mifiposeti Paea, 13 Tim Bennetts, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Yasutaka Sasakura, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Kaito Shigeno, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Shokei Kin, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Naohiro Kotaki, 4 Hitoshi Ono, 3 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki
Replacements: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 19 Kotaro Yatabe, 20 Hiroki Yamamoto, 21 Keisuke Uchida, 22 Kosei Ono, 23 Rikiya Matsuda
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Damien Hoyland, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 John Hardie, 6 John Barclay, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Alasdair Dickinson
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Moray Low, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 David Denton, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Sean Maitland
Date: Saturday, June 18
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Tokyo
Kick-off: 19:20 local (10:20 GMT)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Marius Mitrea (Italy), Brendan Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)