After stunning South Africa, Japan will be tested against a second Tier 1 side in five days
What appeared – at least before a ball was kicked in anger – as a tough, yet eminently winnable opening match for Scotland has taken on huge significance after Japan’s seismic win against the Springboks.
The Cherry Blossoms have blown Pool B wide open after recording the biggest upset in World Cup history. Eddie Jones’s side will have taken massive confidence from that spirited and fully deserved victory against two-time champions South Africa
This is now a massive game for the Scots as anything less than victory will leave their hopes of progressing to the knockout stages of the Rugby World Cup hanging by a thread, with matches against Samoa and South Africa to come.
As such, head coach Vern Cotter is leaving nothing to chance, naming a full strength line up for Wednesday afternoon’s clash at Kingsholm.
Star full-back Stuart Hogg has made a full recovery from the injury sustained against Italy in last month’s warm-up to take his place in the No 15 shirt, with Tommy Seymour and the evergreen Sean Lamont completing the back three.
Much will be expected of captain Greig Laidlaw, who starts alongside Finn Russell in the half-backs, with place-kicking accuracy likely to be crucial after Japan’s Ayumu Goromaru proved unerring when contributing 19 points from the boot last Saturday.Up front, Jonny Gray and Grant Gilchirst are the starting locks with Gray’s older sibling Richie on the bench. Also named among the replacements is uncapped Josh Strauss, who has only just qualified to play for Scotland under the residency rule.
He will surely be introduced at some stage for one of the back row triumvirate of Ryan Wilson, John Hardie and David Denton.
Japan’s brilliant opening-day victory was no fluke, with impressive performances across the pitch from full-back Goromaru through to Highlanders scrum-half Fumiaki Tanaka and Kiwi-born flanker and captain Michael Leitch.
They were equally as good in the tight five, where veteran second row Hitoshi Ono and tighthead prop Kensuke Hatakeyama held it all together against the much-vaunted Springbok scrum. However, with just a four-game turnaround, this game may just come a tad too soon for the Blossoms. Such is the fate of the tier-two nations.
Scotland will have done their homework and will take nothing for granted, however knowing Japan will play a high-tempo game and stopping it are two different things. That said, Cotter’s men – better rested and armed with the knowledge of just what to expect – should have the edge and are available at 13/8 to win by 11-20 points inclusive.
The match kicks off at 2.30pm on Wednesday, September 23rd at Kingsholm Stadium Gloucester.
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.