Japan coach Jamie Joseph plays down prospect of summer Test against Scotland

Georgia, Romania and either England or Spain are now more likely opponents for Gregor Townsend's squad

Jamie Joseph
Japan coach Jamie Joseph. Image: ​©JRFU .

SCOTLAND’s summer schedule, due to be confirmed shortly, is set to consist of away Tests against Georgia and Romania plus a third match against as-yet-unnamed opponents, with Spain and England both still possibilities. However, the prospects of a game against  Japan at BT Murrayfield have receded after their coach, Jamie Joseph, suggested there would be no time for such a match before his team play the British & Irish Lions in Edinburgh on 26 June.

Gregor Townsend revealed last month that there had been discussions about a Test against the Japanese, but it is thought that the other potential opponents mentioned by the Scotland coach are all now more feasible. “We don’t know yet who we are playing,” he said the day after after his team had beaten France in their final Six Nations game. “Georgia, Romania and Spain are options.

“Japan are playing the Lions, so we may be able to do something around them. There are discussions around that. There are also discussions around playing England in a friendly, whether it is a development or an A game, so I am hoping that in the next two or three weeks we will be able to put some fixtures together.”

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The Japanese have not played an international since the 2019 World Cup, when they beat Scotland in the pool stage en route to a quarter-final defeat by South Africa. Joseph, who has named a preliminary squad of 52 for the Lions match, said in a media conference earlier today [Wednesday] that his team would have a warm-up game domestically before heading for the UK, but played down the chances of having another against Townsend’s team days before the Lions game.

“I doubt it,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of time to prepare for our match. We haven’t played since the last World Cup. Scotland have played quite a few matches since then, and we’ve got a wee ways to go.

“It [the Lions game] gives us a crucial starting point for our World Cup preparations. It’s a one-off, unique opportunity for us. There’s certainly no way that I would put added pressure on the group or the organisation by trying to get warm-up games.

“It hasn’t been confirmed, but we’ve got a game planned to play in Japan prior to leaving; it’s the best form of preparation we could manage. It can’t be an international match, because everybody has to isolate for two weeks. It will be a domestic, made-up team. Who will be playing has yet to be confirmed.”

Joseph knows it will be a challenge for his team to gel immediately against the Lions after so long apart, but believes that the consistent improvement he has seen in the domestic game in Japanese will stand his players in good stead. “We haven’t played a Test match since the World Cup [but] that doesn’t restrict the keenness or the motivation that the players have got,” he added.

“Not ideal preparation. The Top League, however, in my view has really improved. There’s a high quality of coaching now in Japan, and a lot of international players now ply their trade in Japan, which is really good for the game as well. 

“It’s a one-off opportunity, it’s the first time that Japan will play the Lions, and that adds to the excitement of the whole occasion. I could imagine in the game itself there will be a lot of rust. Yes, players from the UK have been playing, but they haven’t been playing together, and traditionally those first games can be a wee bit messy.

“But going over to Scotland to play that match is really exciting.”

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About Stuart Bathgate 1438 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.