Scotland v Japan, Autumn Nations Series 2021: Team announcement

770 days on from Typhoon Hagibis and Scotland being blown away by the brilliance of Japan at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Gregor Townsend’s men have the chance to earn a modicum of revenge when the Brave Blossoms visit Murrayfield on Saturday.

The rematch should have taken place during last season’s fan free Autumn Nations Cup but the Japanese had to withdraw from that tournament due to travel restrictions. This time it will be the Scots who have a full house to inspire them.

For the final game of the Autumn Nations Series 2021, Toony has gone with a blend of his first-choice side and developing options and depth in some positions.

There are 7 changes to the starting XV, with 5 players who didn’t feature against South Africa and 2 promoted from last week’s bench. There are 2 further additions from outside the 23 with both tighthead prop Javan Sebastian and back row Dylan Richardson named as subs and in line to make their first appearances for Scotland. They will be the 46th and 47th debutants of the Townsend era and will take the total number of players used during this period up to 96.


Five of the starting backline filled the same positions for the World Cup clash with Japan. Ali Price (in place of Greig Laidlaw) and Duhan van der Merwe (for Tommy Seymour) are the duo who didn’t experience the disappointment of Yokohama.

In fact, that game against the Brave Blossoms was the last one Price missed for Scotland – he has started all but one of the dark blues’ Test matches since the RWC and is the only back to start all 4 games in the Autumn Nations Series.

Darcy Graham and Sam Johnson are recalled having missed the game with South Africa. They are almost unquestionably the incumbents for their respective jerseys with Johnson having started 21 of 31 Tests at inside centre since his debut in 2019 and Graham filling the 14 shirt for 9 of the 14 games played in the last year.


In the pack, Grant Gilchrist and Jamie Ritchie are the only returning starters from the last meeting with the Japanese – although both Zander Fagerson and Scott Cummings were on the bench for that previous encounter. Ritchie and Fagerson are the only forwards to start all 4 fixtures in the Autumn Nations Series. Jamie Bhatti, Pierre Schoeman, Hamish Watson and Matt Fagerson have been in the matchday 23s for all of the November Tests.

Having benched last week against South Africa Jamie Bhatti will make his first-ever start for Scotland at Murrayfield. His previous appearances in the number 1 jersey came in Houston against the US in 2018 and in Nice versus France during the 2019 World Cup warm-up matches.

George Turner’s return to the starting lineup may well cement his case to be Scotland’s current first-choice hooker. This will be his 7th start for the national side in their last 9 Tests. Scott Cummings has had to wait a little longer for his return, having missed the dark blues’ last 5 matches. Until that point he had played 20 Tests in a row since his debut.

The recast back row sees Hamish Watson return to the number 7 shirt he has owned for the last 5 years. Josh Bayliss replaces Matt Fagerson and will make his first start having debuted off the bench against Australia. He will be the 9th different player to wear the number 8 jersey during the Townsend era.


Among the substitutes, Stuart McInally, Pierre Schoeman, Sam Skinner and Matt Fagerson all started a bruising encounter against the Springboks a week ago. They’re joined by the aforementioned new caps, Sebastian and Richardson. Little Horne (George) and Kinghorn (Blair) retain their bench slots but unlike 2 years ago in Yokohama they aren’t joined by Big Horne (Pete)!

The Team:

15. Stuart Hogg (c)*
14. Darcy Graham*
13. Chris Harris*
12. Sam Johnson*
11. Duhan van der Merwe
10. Finn Russell*
9. Ali Price

1. Jamie Bhatti
2. George Turner
3. Zander Fagerson**
4. Scott Cummings**
5. Grant Gilchrist*
6. Jamie Ritchie*
7. Hamish Watson
8. Josh Bayliss

16. Stuart McInally**
17. Pierre Schoeman
18. Javan Sebastian
19. Sam Skinner
20. Dylan Richardson
21. Matt Fagerson
22. George Horne**
23. Blair Kinghorn**

* Denotes player who started for Scotland against Japan in the 2019 RWC.
** Denotes player who was a replacement for Scotland against Japan in the 2019 RWC.


15. Ryohei Yamanaka**
14. Kotaro Matsushima*
13. Shogo Nakano
12. Ryoto Nakamura*
11. Siosaia Fifita
10. Rikiya Matsuda**
9. Yutaka Nagare*

1. Craig Millar
2. Atsushi Sakate**
3. Asaeli Ai Valu**
4. Jack Cornelsen
5. James Moore*
6. Michael Leitch*
7. Pieter Labuschagne (c)*
8. Kazuki Himeno*

16. Kosuke Horikoshi
17. Keita Inagaki*
18. Shinnosuke Kakinaga
19. Ben Gunter
20. Tevita Tatafu
21. Naoto Saito
22. Yu Tamura*
23. Dylan Riley

* Denotes player who started for Japan against Scotland in the 2019 RWC.
** Denotes player who was a replacement for Japan against Scotland in the 2019 RWC.


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