Japan v Scotland: Scotland player ratings

A tough result as Scotland tumble out of the World Cup but there is cause for mild optimisim with a crop of bright youngsters coming through

Scotland flanker Jamie Ritchie kept fighting until the end.
Scotland flanker Jamie Ritchie kept fighting until the end. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson

15. Stuart Hogg – 6

His formidable reputation means that opportunities to run in the open prairie are increasingly rare, but has added intelligence to his booming kicking game to become a far more rounded player. And, although his frustration at the way things were going in this match was abundantly clear, he kept his head and played a leading role in the side’s second half rally.

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14. Tommy Seymour – 7

Recalled to the side (due to Sean Maitland’s injury) after the Ireland debacle three weeks ago and made the most of what might well be his international swan-song. Showed good gas to get back and clear the mess after Russell’s early charged down kick. Put a Japanese tackler on his backside during  the lead-up to Scotland’s opening try. But was generally outshone by Japan’s magnificently dynamic back three.

13. Chris Harris – 7

Had a couple of costly blunders. Most notably at the start of the second half when it looked like Kenki Fukuoka was taken candy from baby in the lead-up to Japan’s fourth try. There was also a fumble as Scotland tried to salvage something from the game late on. But his energy levels and willingness to put his body on the line is a catalyst for good things. He is one of the players to come out of this tournament with reputation significantly enhanced, but given that he will be almost 33 by the time France 2023 comes around, we might just have to accept that it is unfortunate that he was a late developer onto the international stage.

12. Sam Johnson – 6

Had a decent run which helped trigger Scotland’s second half revival, but didn’t really manage to impose himself on the game. Scotland’s problems in defence were in the wide channels so absolved from that – but in an area where we apparently have a deep pool of talent we should really be looking for a more dominant performance from the man in possession of the No 12 jersey. He is no longer the rookie.

11. Darcy Graham – 6

There are always bumps along the road and he struggled defensively in this one. But he will bounce back and remains the type of player and character who will surely be crucial during the next World Cup Cycle.

10. Finn Russell – 6

What can you say about Finn Russell that has not already been said? A million and one things, actually.

He is the fulcrum of so much of the good stuff that happens in this team, such as that masterful diagonal kick during the lead-up to his own first try for Scotland, which is something only a handful of players in the world could contemplate doing. But a few moments before that his speculative grubber through was charged down and a promising Scottish attack turned into a frantic rearguard effort. Once Japan found there feet, and got their line-speed going, he couldn’t find a way to pull the strings like we know he can. Maybe we just have to shrug and accept taking the rough with the smooth.

9. Greig Laidlaw – 6

Is this the last time we will see the little maestro in a Scotland jersey? Hopefully not, because he deserves a better send-off than his barely  noticed 51st minute departure to be replaced by George Horne.


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1. Allan Dell – 6

Seemed to feel pretty hard done by when Scotland’s scrum really struggled in the first half. Worked hard around the park, as he always does. His athleticism and ball-playing ability is a useful commodity but Scotland’s scrum is never going to terrify the opposition.

2. Fraser Brown – 6

As aggressive and as hard-working as we expected hm to be when he was announced ahead of squad captain Stuart McInally for this match. The line-out was fine.

3. WP Nel – 6

Making 17 tackles during his 51 minutes on the park is a pretty good return for a tight-head prop but you still get the feeling that Scotland are – at best – just about getting away with it at scrum time. At 33 years of age, he’s another one of the ‘Dad’s Army’ brigade, although props do have a longevity that is not afforded the players further back in the line-up. Rumbled over for Scotland’s second try, which shifted the momentum of a game which was in danger of running away from Scotland. However, Zander Fagerson’s try soon after taking Nel’s place did feel emblematic of a changing of the guard.

4. Grant Gilchrist – 6

Was implicated in letting Matsushima through in lead up to Japan’s second try. Struggled as much as any of his team-mates chasing shadows for the 40 minute chunk in the middle of this match, before being replaced by Scott Cummings (who has laid out his stall as a player with a big future in the Scotland jersey). Gilchrist is still a key man, as a player and a personality, but at 29 years of age he is already looking over his shoulder.

5. Jonny Gray – 7

Usual phenomenal work-rate. His tackle count was at 25 this week, which was highest of anyone on either of the two teams. Was perhaps lucky to avoid a sanction for his tackle on Japanese hooker Shoat Horie in first half. Played a crucial role in build-up to Fagerson’s try with some thunderous carrying.

6. Magnus Bradbury – 7

A mixed bag. Took on a serious load of carrying and played a crucial role in opening try by following up Russell’s kick to win the ball back on Japan’s line, but was brushed off by Kotaro Matsushima in the lead-up to second Japanese try. Scotland could do with the 24-year-old back-rower having a couple of relatives injury-free seasons to fully establish himself.

7. Jamie Ritchie – 8

Another magnificent performance. Burst out the line to make a brilliant tackle as Scotland shook Japan early on, won a a huge turnover just a few minutes later under the shadow of his own posts. Generally ferocious over the ball. Sailed a bit close to the wind at times, but his unyielding combative style was crucial to Scotland exiting this game with dignity intact.

8. Blade Thomson – 6

Seems to have all the bits and pieces but it would be good to see him step up and dominate a game.

Replacements

16. Stuart Mcinally – 6

A tough World Cup for the squad captain and his demeanour at the end showed it. Time to stand up and show that he is a real leader of men.

17. Gordon Reid – 6

The 32-year-old has had a great World Cup on and off the field. He’s off to play ‘part-time professional’ rugby with the Ayrshire Bulls Super6 franchise now. With Dell heading to London Irish where he will be part of a desperate fight for survival  in the Premiership, and two non-Scottish qualified South Africans as first choices at Edinburgh and Glasgow – Pierre Schoeman and Oli Kebble, respectively – loose-head could become a major head ache. Part of the Scott Johnson legacy?

18. Zander Fagerson – 6

Marked his arrival on the park with his first try in 25 appearances. Time to establish himself as the cornerstone of the Scottish pack, but does he have the bulk to do it?

19. Scott Cummings – 6

He as pretty down afterwards but hopefully when the initial pain wears off he can draw pride from his heroic efforts this summer to go from extended training squad cannon-fodder to one of the players Scotland’s next World Cup cycle should be built around. Had a great carry in build up to Fagerson’s try.

20. Ryan Wilson – 5

Not much chance to make an impression after replacing Bradbury on 66 minutes.

21. George Horne – 6

Added buzz. Will presumably get some more time in the saddle during the Six Nations.

22. Peter Horne – 6

Made things happen around him although it was frustrating that his long pass to Chris Harris floated forward in the lead-up to Stuart Hogg’s disallowed try.

23. Blair Kinghorn – 6

Few opportunities to make an impact in his 29 minutes. Now has a World Cup under his belt and is still only 22.


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David Barnes
About David Barnes 1538 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

3 Comments

  1. I’m not a fan of Pete Horne at international level. Whilst good things do occasionally happen, very costly mistakes regularly do. It wasn’t just his forward pass to Harris, he also passed behind Harris on the other side, leading to a knock on. In neither case was a try guaranteed, but both meant possession was carelessly surrendered and that was unaffordable.

    With regard to Laidlaw, I was a big fan of his when we were in desperate need of a steadying head, but his weaknesses have been laid bare by the pace of the game we are supposed to be playing and Japan actually did. Johnson is a high class centre, but if Russell is getting ponderous service fromn Laidlaw, how much attacking will he be able to do? Ali Price would have been my pick for the starting XV had he been available. We’re unfortunate Hidalgo Clyne has seemingly burned bridges and George Horne is still new to the scene. Under no circumstances would I have welcomed Pyrgos onto the pitch, as he’s regressed to his aimless box kicking.

    We do have some reasons for optimism. Although 8 of Sunday’s team played in the last world cup game against Japan, there are a few who could be around the Scotland set-up for quite a few years and new faces in the Glasgow backs and the return of a couple of old ones at Edinburgh have strengthened our depth. Hopefully that strength will be deep enough to consign makeshift selections of Pete Horne and Chris Harris to history.

    Overall, I doubt Scotland’s performance at this world cup is going to entice many new followers to the game, so getting our international players back to Edinburgh and Glasgow for league outings before their Welsh and Irish rivals should be capitlised on. Sadly, league matches are hidden behind a subscription service, so the SRU needs a strong 6 Nations to banish memories of our failure to turn up against Ireland and our 22% first half possession against Japan. I think we have the players to do it, but I don’t believe we have the coach and next year’s 6 Nations should be Townsend’s last.

    There have been far too many occasions when Scotland simply haven’t competed, either for 40 minutes, or against Ireland for 80 minutes. The suspicion is when we do manage a comeback it’s because the plan has been torn up and the oppositon think the game’s in the bag. That’s not acceptable. The players are better than that, but they’re not being prepared well enough and that has to change.

  2. You’re being far to charitable to a number of players there, especially Laidlaw. For all that he’s been a great player over the years, his current game involves giving incredibly slow ball to the backs or repeatedly box kicking the ball straight to the opposition. Compare and contrast with Japanese nine.

  3. “Time to establish himself as the cornerstone of the Scottish pack, but does he have the bulk to do it?”.

    An odd comment, Fagerson is two stone heavier than Nel. I’d suggest it’s more his temperament and scrummaging where the question marks lie. Hopefully Rae, Nicol and a return to form for McCallum push him on.

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