Japan and Scotland will meet on Sunday in the last game of Pool A at the Rugby World Cup, with qualification on the line. In broad terms, the winner of this game will go through to the quarterfinals, while the loser will exit the competition. However, Japan can afford a draw or even a loss by 7 points or less (if they deny Scotland from scoring 4+ tries, or if they can score 4+ tries themselves). Details on the qualifying scenarios will follow below in the preview.
Incredibly, this crucial encounter is in danger of being cancelled due to the Hagibis Typhoon, along with the incompetence of World Rugby and the RWC Organising committee, which were unable to come out with a contingency plan in the last 10 years, despite knowing it is typhoon season in Japan. If that were to happen, the game will be scored 0-0, and Scotland would be sent out of the World Cup without having the chance to compete. Official decision about the cancellation will be made Sunday morning, Japan time.
After the monumental upset against South Africa at the 2015 World Cup, Japan reignited its giant killing spree to defeat Ireland 19-12 here at RWC 2019. It was a huge success which put Japan in pole position to qualify from the group, as they were able to win their other two games by pretty large margins. They claimed victories against Russia (30-10) and Samoa (38-19) – though the win over Samoa was harder than it looks, and the game was still alive until the 76th minute.
Scotland was put on the back foot right from the first match of this tournament, when they lost 3-27 to Ireland on the back of a very poor performance. However, the Scots dusted themselves off, got back on their feet, and showed their real potential in the next two matches. Although the opposition wasn`t the strongest, Scotland was still very impressive in a 35-0 win over Samoa and a 61-0 demolition of Russia.Bet on Japan v Scotland and claim a 100% (100 Eur) welcome bonus at 1XBet now!
Team news & lineups:
With everything on the line in this clash, both coaches will obviously field their best available lineups.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Darcy Graham, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Jamie Ritchie, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Allan Dell
Japan: 15 William Tupou, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Yutaka Nagare, 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Michael Leitch (c), 5 James Moore, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Jiwon Koo, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki
The Scots need to win this, but also make sure Japan doesn`t get more bonus point(s) than them in the match. They need to get 4 more points than Japan, and points are awarded as such:
• 4 points for a win
• 1 point for a loss by 7 points or less
• 1 point for scoring 4 or more tries
So Scotland will need to win by 8 or more points to be sure of qualification, but there are other scenarios as well. For example, a win by less than 8 points would be fine if Scotland scores 4+ tries and Japan does not. The bottom line though is Scotland needs the win.
Despite Japan’s magnificent win over Ireland, that didn`t suddenly transform them into a better side. They remain an inferior team to Scotland, and we could see how they dropped their performance in their next game against Samoa, when the Samoans were only trailing by 7 points in the closing stages of the game.
Scotland is simply the better team here, and they have found their form after a poor start to the World Cup, playing some excellent rugby in their previous two games.
Scotland does have only 4 days of rest, which would normally be a problem, but they fielded a virtually completely different team 4 days ago, so there should be no worries. Japan might be more worried about fatigue, as they do not have the same depth as Scotland.
If the game is played, weather will be unpredictable and it`s hard to say a team will have an edge over the other from this point of view.
The two teams met in a similar situation at the previous World Cup. After shocking South Africa, Japan was not able to maintain the same level for the rest of the competition, and Scotland won 45-10 to advance to the quarters. Since then there have been two H2H meetings, both in Japan in 2016. Scotland won each of those, 21-16 and 26-13.
My tip will be Scotland to win by more than one point, even if Japan has home court advantage. The Brave Blossoms are a solid side, but they are definitely overrated after beating Ireland, and it`s no wonder odds on dropping. Scotland should show why they are still a level above them, and chances are most of the smart money will be on them in this clash. Prediction: Japan – Scotland 17 – 28.