Japan will face Scotland in the final pool match of the 2019 Rugby World Cup on Sunday, 13 October at International Stadium Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Yokohama City.
Kickoff for this key Pool A match is at 19:45 local time (06:45 ET) In the U.S, the match may be viewed on NBC Sports Network or on-demand on NBC Sports Gold and on TSN 1 and 4 in Canada.
Typhoon Hagibis, whose path will impact the center of Japan is expected on Saturday. A matchday decision will be made whether the match will be played.
Japan enters the match with a 3-0 record and tops the Pool A standings with 14 points, with Ireland in second with 11. Scotland has 10 points, but should they obtain a bonus-point win could top the standing should Ireland lose to Samoa on Saturday, or should Ireland gain a bonus-point win, Japan could miss out on advancing to the quarterfinals for the second consecutive time for a team with three wins.
World Rugby made a decision to cancel New Zealand vs Italy and the England vs France matches on Saturday due to Typhoon Hagibus. That meant a draw for both matches.
A decision will be made about whether all Sunday matches will be played. Should they be canceled, the Japan vs Scotland match would result in a draw with Scotland not advancing to the quarterfinals.
Brave Blossoms head coach Jamie Joseph made four changes to the line-up for the match against Scotland. Japan is 3-0 in pool play and tops the Pool A standings.
Michael Leitch returns as the captain after Pieter Labuschagne had that role for the past two games. Hooker Shota Horie, second-row Luke Thompson, wing Kenki Fukuoka and full-back William Tupou return to start.
Joseph said “This will be the most significant match (in the Japanese rugby history) and that’s because we’re in a position we are, now top of the table and we’ve got the opportunity to win the pool. If we win on Sunday we go out confidently to the quarter-finals – that’s never ever happened before.
“I’d like to remind everybody it hasn’t been a fluke (but) a lot of hard work. We’ve been in the camp for 240 days this year alone. The majority of our players are professionals in their companies, we’re an amateur rugby team. What that means are the players who play for Japan don’t get paid, or 100 dollars a day.”
Thompson will make his 13th RWC appearance, Leitch his 12th and Horie his 11th, while fly-half Yu Tamura is the top scorer of Rugby World Cup 2019 going into the final weekend. Tamura has 40 points with second-place Elton Jantjies of South Africa with 28.
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has made 12 changes in the starters for their decisive Pool A match with Japan in Yokohama.
Fraser Brown, who played openside flanker against Russia starts at hooker. Darcy Graham returns on the left-wing as Seat Maitland has not recovered from a groin injury.
There are further changes to the 23 with Pete Horne and Blair Kinghorn on the bench as cover in midfield and the back three.
Scotland poses a challenge that Japan has yet to face in the competition. “Greig Laidlaw, Finn Russell, and Stuart Hogg all have exceptional kicking games. Opposing teams must put at least two defenders in the backfield to cover their territorial kicks. If only one defender is back, Russell and Hogg will kick away from them and gain territory.”
“When the defensive line is light of defenders Scotland can pass the ball into the wide space. If the defensive line is filled Scotland will kick in behind.”
“In Scotland, Japan faces a team who play in a very similar way to them – for the first time in this tournament. This could be their biggest challenge.”
Japan: 1. Keita Inagaki 2. Shota Horie 3. Jiwon Koo 4. Luke Thompson 5. James Moore 6. Michael Leitch (capt.) 7. Pieter Labuschagne 8. Kazuki Himeno 9. Yutaka Nagare 10. Yu Tamura 11. Kenki Fukuoka 12. Ryoto Nakamura 13. Timothy Lafaele 14. Kotaro Matsushima 15. William Tupou 16. Atsushi Sakate 17. Isileli Nakajima 18. Asaeli Ai Valu 19. Uwe Helu 20. Hendrik Tui 21. Fumiaki Tanaka 22. Rikiya Matsuda 23. Ryohei Yamanaka
Scotland: 1. Allan Dell 2. Fraser Brown 3. Willem Nel 4. Grant Gilchrist 5. Jonny Gray 6. Magnus Bradbury 7. Jamie Ritchie 8. Blade Thomson 9. Greig Laidlaw (capt.) 10. Finn Russell 11. Darcy Graham 12. Sam Johnson 13. Chris Harris 14. Tommy Seymour 15. Stuart Hogg 16. Stuart McInally 17. Gordon Reid 18. Zander Fagerson 19. Scott Cummings 20. Ryan Wilson 21.George Horne 22. Pete Horne 23. Blair Kinghorn