Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland v Japan: A History

Matt Scott and David Denton - pic © Al Ross

The shared history of Scotland and Japan is not particularly notable. A Scot introduced the first steam train to Japan and Billy Connolly played an Irishman in the Tom Cruise film “The Last Samurai”. The history of Scotland versus Japan rugby matches is not particularly comprehensive either. The teams have met each other in full internationals four times since 1991 with two of those matches coming in World Cups.

Scotland have never underestimated the threat posed by the Brave Blossoms. Before every match the talk has been of improvements made in Japanese rugby and their attacking threat. However Scotland’s victories have always seemed comprehensive. At least on paper.

5 October 1991 – Scotland 47 Japan 9

Scotland met Japan in the Pool Stages of the second World Cup. The tournament was hosted jointly by the then Five Nations meaning Scotland played all their Pool games at Murrayfield.

The Pools were numbered rather than lettered back in 1991 and Scotland found themselves in Pool 2 along with Ireland, Japan and Zimbabwe. As with 2015 Scotland’s opening match was against the Brave Blossoms.

An uncapped Scotland side had been beaten 28 – 24 by Japan in Tokyo in 1989 although nine Scots were missing due to being on tour with the Lions in Australia. This was back in the day when Scotland actually made a real contribution to the combined touring side. The Japanese were not to be underestimated and despite running out 47 – 9 winners the Japanese more than held their own in the early exchanges putting the Scottish scrum under some pressure.

Scotland went on to top the Pool and finished the tournament in fourth position following a narrow defeat to England in the semi-finals and a 13-6 defeat to the All Blacks in the third place play-off.

Scotland tries: S. Hastings, Stanger, Chalmers, White, Penalty Try, Tukalo, G. Hastings

Scotland cons: G. Hastings (5)

Scotland pens: G. Hastings (2), Chalmers

Japan tries: Hosokawa

Japan cons: Hosokawa

Japan pens: Hosokawa

11 October 2003 – Scotland 31 Japan 11

Another World Cup and again Scotland find themselves in the second Pool (now known as Pool B) with Japan. Again Scotland face the Brave Blossoms in their opening match at the magnificently named Dairy Famers Stadium in Townsville, Australia.

The final score may seem comprehensive on paper but the game itself was anything but straightforward for Scotland. Japan were the better side throughout much of the first half and came within four points of Scotland with half an hour remaining on the clock. However three quick tries from Christ Paterson, Simon Taylor and Simon Danielli put the Scots out of reach in the closing stages of the match. Reports from the time say only Paterson, Taylor and Jason White emerged from the match with any shred of dignity. Try scored Hirotoki Onozawa continued playing for Japan until 2013 and remains involved with the squad mentoring younger players.

Scotland went on to finish second to France in the Pool which also featured the USA. Scotland only scraped into the Quarter finals after a 22-20 victory over Fiji in the final match of the Pool and were dumped out of the tournament in a 33-16 defeat to hosts Australia.

Scotland tries: Paterson (2), Grimes, Taylor, Danielli

Scotland cons: Paterson, Townsend

Scotland pens: Paterson

Japan tries: Onozawa

Japan pens: Hirose(2)

13 November 2004 – Scotland 100 Japan 8

Following their humbling during the previous year Scotland hosted Japan during the 2003 Autumn Tests. As is usual with Scotland’s meetings with second tier nations the game took place away from Murrayfield at McDiarmid Park. Matt Williams time in charge of Scotland is not remembered fondly by many fans. However he can claim to have presided over Scotland’s record win.

Once again the score line does not tell the whole story. The Japan that toured Europe in 2004 was not the same as the team that had given Scotland a scare the previous year. Following the departure of coach Shogo Mukai after the World Cup, Japan tried to appoint Eddie Jones however he turned them down. Japan turned to Mitsutake Hagimoto instead. Hagimoto who went about implementing a policy of not selecting foreign born players following criticism of the make-up of the team at the previous world cup.

This backfired spectacularly and a number of key players were overlooked and others not given permission to travel. It was a disorganised and demoralised Japan that turned up in Scotland and that, more than anything contributed to the heavy defeat.

Christ Paterson ended the match with 40 points to his name just four short of Gavin Hastings record of 44 points in a single match in Scotland’s 89-0 victory over the Ivory Coast at the 1995 World Cup. A young Sean Lamont got in on the scoring, although he also butchered a chance with the line begging. However, Scotland being Scotland they still conceded a try. In contrast Wales beat Japan 98-0 a few weeks later.

The whole match is available on Youtube. Could be worth switching over if things don’t go well on Wednesday.

Scotland tries: Hogg, Southwell (2), Paterson (3), Parks, Petrie, Blair, Henderson, Morrison, Lamont, MacFadyen, Russell (2)

Scotland cons: Paterson (11)

Scotland pens: Paterson

Japan tries: Faiman

Japan pens: Ikeda

9 November 2013 – Scotland 42 Japan 17

Scotland’s most recent meeting with Japan took place at Murrayfield with the sides aware that they would be meeting in the Pool stages of the World Cup.

Andy Robinson had been dismissed the previous Autumn and Scott Johnson had begun the process of blooding new players in advance of Big Vern’s arrival the following summer. Only 14 of Scotland’s matchday 23 have gone on to make the World Cup squad showing just how much change the national side has seen in the past two years.

Japan arrived in Scotland off the back of a heavy defeat to the All Blacks albeit a defeat where they caused New Zealand significant problems in the scrum. Eddie Jones was now in charge and targeting wins against the likes of Scotland and Wales. Japan had already beaten Wales in the Summer (although most of the first choice Welsh squad were away on Lions duty) and so this was seen as a real opportunity to force their way into the top 8 of the World Rugby rankings.

At the time Scott Johnson said a number of players were on a warning and failure to perform would see them dropped from the squad and unlikely to make the World Cup. This writer predicted curtains for Nick De Luca, Al Kellock, Ross Ford, David Denton and Euan Murray. Three out of five isn’t bad.

Once again the score line flattered Scotland with Japan a constant threat with ball in hand. You can read out match report here. Tim Swinson was the official man of the match after a great physical performance whilst we opted for Matt Scott. It’s worth noting that four out of the five try scorers for Scotland have made the starting line up for the upcoming game.

Scotland tries: Seymour 2, Laidlaw, Dickinson, Weir, Lamont

Scotland cons: Laidlaw 2, Weir

Scotland pens: Laidlaw 2

Japan tries: Fukuoka 2

Japan cons: Goromaru 2

Japan pens: Goromaru


Notwithstanding the result at the weekend the lesson we can take from the analysis of Scotland’s previous meetings with Japan is that they should not be taken lightly. Aside from 2004 Scotland have never had it easy and even when they put 100 points passed the Brave Blossoms they still managed to concede a try.

South Africa may have named an experienced squad to face Japan but the overall impression is that they simply failed to prepare, perhaps expecting an easy first outing. Scotland, by contrast, have always taken Japan seriously. However that is perhaps down to Scotland’s propensity to capitulate in the face of teams they should beat.

Whatever the final result on Wednesday we’re in for a rough ride. Best have a cushion to hand to hide behind when things get tense.

Scotland team to face Japan:

Hogg; Seymour, Bennett, Scott, Lamont; Russell, Laidlaw; Dickinson, Ford, Nel, Gilchrist, J. Gray, Wilson, Hardie, Denton. Replacements: Brown, Grant, Welsh, R. Gray, Strauss, Pyrgos, Horne, Maitland.

23rd September 2015 – Kingsholm Stadium, Gloucester K.O. 2:30pm live on ITV

38 Responses

  1. It has the look of a 1st team and is as strong as anything we can put out, although I’m looking forward to Josh Strauss coming on for debut.
    I suspect we’re building Japan up a little too much after their sterling work at the weekend.
    If Scotland have the right attitude, they win. If a bad attitude, then anything can happen. Accuracy needed.
    Rain is expected up until midday, then it’s overcast with a bit of sun. It might be a greasy ball, but dry for the game hopefully.

  2. Very pleased with this selection.

    I think this is the best 23 we have at our disposal with the only change I would of liked being Horne for Scott. One assumes that Horne’s ability to cover 10 might of influenced BVC’s decision on this one though. Fingers crossed Scott can continue to build up his form!

    I am also delighted for Sean Lamont, I think after the warm-ups he really put his hand up and will never let you down. I will be interested to see what our bench can bring with 25-20 mins to go. It has been a very long time since we had that much power and pace to bring on in the closing stages!!

    All in all very positive, almost too positive……. which with Scotland surely spells impending doom…

  3. Well it’s a must win simple as that so strongest team and match day squad as possible. If this goes well then we can rotate for the U.S. I think we will be ok, there has been a huge amount of analysis of Japan and these players are primed for a professional performance. I believe this is the difference now under Cotter – a team that actually knows how to win. I’m still very nervous but we have some world class players in this team and others bubbling under.
    Just had to throw a hospital appt in for weds afternoon to make sure I see the whole match. Good luck everyone

  4. A good team and I’m relatively confident. I’m a fan of Lamont’s and I think he deserves all the plaudits he gets for commitment, effectiveness (on the wing) and reliability, but in looking at the line-up I just wish Maitland could find an extra 5% pace and penetration to make the wing slot his own. With Hogg, Seymour and a firing Maitland, the threat would be superb. Can Maitland step up one or two gears or have we seen his best? Looking forward to it! :)

    1. Andrew, I could not agree more. Maitland for me has all the tools, but, he has never put them together effectively in a single performance for Scotland, I personally think it is a lack of conviction in his own abilities. How many times have we seen him make a half break or take an inside ball but not back himself to finish it? I really hope that BVC can give him a confidence boost and that we finally get to see his fabled pace in full flight as I believe he has a Rugby IQ that few other wingers have in the Northern Hemisphere and he could develop into a mini Ben Smith given the right mix of luck, confidence and opportunity, until then Lamont completely deserves his place as you say.

      1. This game was made for Lamont, he is hard to stop and takes out the first man and just keeps going. This is not a run round kind of game, it is take out and off load.

        The kind of game that RichIe Gray used to give us would work. I can see why he is being saved till later. Could it be that he will pick up the role Nakarawa plays with Strauss at Glasgow. Time will tell. It is there for the taking and suddenly this group is all about one side, Scotland and not a day too soon.

      2. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Maitland start at FB against the USA. Hogg has been struggling with niggly injuries for a while and Maitland was excellent against France at 15.

  5. It’s a strong starting XV and a strong bench. Here’s hoping that what we’ve been showing in the warm ups and in our better periods of play in this year’s 6N gets delivered on Wednesday afternoon. Gutted that work means I won’t see any of this live on tv. Good luck, Scotland!

  6. Cannot argue with this team as a good feel to it. The bench selection looks just right as well, Welsh on early in the second half and Ryan Grant is a better pick for this game than GR . Peter Horne and Pyrgos will liven it up and bring a new dynamic in the last quarter and a nice test for Jock Strauss. Lets be honest that was a big test for Japan, 3 day turnaround, so if we start well, retain possession, make them work, keep out the bin and the second half will be ours. Take every the long range penalty on goal and sacrifice the short ones for line outs just to keep them pinned. Yes it is an easy game in the terraces.

  7. Strauss and Pyrgos need to be playing but otherwise the squad looks good. However, I really hope the Sa result was a one off because we will struggle if we play too many wayward kicks in their direction. They hardly make a mistake and move the ball quickly. If we aren’t at 100% I can see us losing this game. The good news is that I haven’t seen anything from USA or Samoa that would worry me and SA look a bit old and mediocre.

  8. I remember that game- 100:8 scoreline in our favour. Any chance of us repeating that? I think we have to get 15 points or more ahead of them by half time. If there are more than 2 converted tries separating the teams at that stage the Japanese spirits may go down. The one thing we cannot do is just to hang on for a narrow victory. Do that and they will punish us in the last 2 minutes or injury time. We need to play for 85 minutes, not just 75 as we have done in the past.

  9. Really excited for this now. Hope we are well represented in the stands. Out of interest, are there many of the ‘regulars’ on here going to the game?

    1. Finally our RWC15 starts!!! Should be a humdinger.
      Not sure whether I count as a “regular” but could only get the afternoon off so will be in the pub!
      Going to the SA match though.

    2. Dont consider myself regular anywhere, however I can tell you one who will be there and one who will not.

  10. Right, let Operation “Blind Optimism” commence!

    SCOTLAND BY 30!!

    Absolutely gagging for this match now!

  11. Not being disloyal, but Japan are well worth a punt in betting terms –
    11-2 for the win or 20-1 to win by more than ten – tempting!

  12. Real advantage in height @ line out time & with both Japanese wings 5ft 9″, accurate kicks/cross kicks or line outs deep into the 22 with good chases &; tackles. Quick ball for Denton, Lamont, Gray to commit players, quick ball for Hogg, Bennett.

    Should (I say should) be by about 3 scores

    Remember Japan have very recently lost to Fiji, Tonga & USA

  13. Perhaps not what fans want but think we should keep it tight. Control scrum and line out and find touch with good kicking. Grind out a win to start with. Flare can come later!!!

  14. I will be going tomorrow and hope I am with a full stadium of fellow scots.
    Suspect there will be good representation for Japan given they are the neutrals team.
    Should win by a decent margin and push for 4 try’s.

  15. Um the shared history of Scotland v Japan is not particularly notable??? Don’t mention the war… Personally I think it has little relevance to the current countries and none to rugby, but you cannot start an article like that when it is utterly wrong and only a generation ago. Regiments from Scotland more than any other home nation were tasked to fight Japan in Singapore and beyond. A bit like saying there is no notable history between Germany and the UK.

    There’s also the whisky connection.

    Back to sport, this should be a cracker!

    1. I agree with the whisky reference, being current and all, but is the war really necessary on a rugby post?

    2. A quick glance at the teams involved suggests that Britain, with Scots heavily involved has fought or invaded France, Italy, South Africa, USA, Canada, Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand, Australia, Tonga, Argentina and Ireland.
      Best not mention the war.

    3. Guys you can find shared ground and otherwise between our nation and almost every other country on earth. The war is almost irrelevant as it is barely in living memory. Rather like condemning the Norwegians as they sent Vikings to rape and pillage our land- or condemning the Italians because of the atrocities committed by the Romans. The fact is that we share some common ground with Japan but many things in our cultures are different- too many to mention.

      At the end of the day, Rugby is a mans game and politics are irrelevant. Cameron is not very liberal and has a bad habit of silencing constructive arguments unless he agrees with the viewpoint 100%. I often disagree with him but on this occasion I feel that he has a point. The reference to whiskey was light hearted and lets put international politics to one side and concentrate on the rugby.

  16. Well here we go. Nervous, but excited. I am looking for a controlled and dominant display, even if the margin is tight. If there is the chance to break free a bit, then great, but let’s just get the win and an assured start. C’mon Scotland!

  17. Scot-Japan links? Look no further than Thomas Blake Glover

    Can’t wait for this afternoon – v v v v excited

  18. Half time – frustrated that Scottish mistakes have let Japan find their rhythm and get a toe hold in the game. Not looking forward to second half, we need to take the initiative, score first and stamp some authority on the match. Play in their half and build pressure.

    1. Too many mistakes at key points but good performance in lots of respects, especially defence.

      Japan have lots of quality though, they could do Samoa and USA

      1. Japan play an fantastic brand of rugby, but have they an ability to mix it up? Sometimes it looked like they were trying to hard. Also raise a glass to Steve Borthwick they have an extremely good lineout.

  19. Looking good. Read Scrum V forum…I hope Wales get humiliated v England. Greatly greatly dislike the welsh rugby fans…

    1. Wouldn’t sweat it. An insignificant country full of blokes with two chips on their shoulders. Rugby is about all they have in that bleak cesspit.

  20. ACE- a well deserved victory. I think we will definitely qualify for the QF now and may even sneak first spot. That would be incredible given how badly we played in the 6 nations. Just goes to show what a little confidence, hard work and determination can achieve.

  21. Also why oh why is everyone complaining regarding the scheduling? Do we not play USA with the exact same turn around as Japan had? We’ll see how tired we are come Sunday. Seems like alot of countries fans have a real chip on their shoulder regarding Scotland. Oh well hopefully wen can shut them all up by continuing to win games.

    1. I agree with this. These guys are fit and professional. Exactly how much turnaround time do they need- 2 weeks? Wake up and smell the coffee supporters- if we allowed them more time then you would have to do the same for every team and that would mean a tournament held over 2-3 months. Not very practical if you ask me. Scotland only have 4 days between playing this game and USA so its not a very strong argument.

  22. I have 40 whole pounds on us to win the World Cup courtesy of Betfair at 120/1. Yes that is right. I may be tempted to sell out before the final, but game on! If they could just play Pyrgos instead of Laidlaw and find a place for Maitkand from the start I’d be a very happy Scot.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion