Scotland v Japan: Bryan Easson selects strongest team for Sunday showdown

Scotland captain Rachel Malcolm (centre) training with team-mates at Murrayfield earlier this week. Image: © Craig Watson.

SCOTLAND head coach Bryan Easson has gone with his strongest available starting line-up for Sunday’s match against Japan – a game which is essentially a dress rehearsal for the World Cup repechage tournament due to be held early next year.

There is only one change to the 15 from the team’s last outing, the 20-18 victory over Ireland that saw Scotland secure second place in the European qualifier and thus progress to the repechage. Sarah Bonar, who was on the bench in that game in late September, returns at lock in place of Louise McMillan, who drops down to the replacements.

There are two uncapped players on the bench: loosehead prop Anne Young and back Shona Campbell, both of Edinburgh University. Two other substitutes, Evie Wills and Evie Gallagher, have one cap and six caps respectively. However, otherwise this is an experienced squad who can be expected to travel pretty much en bloc to the repechage, expected to be played in Qatar.

Japan lost 23-5 to Wales last week – their first match since they last time they played Scotland, a narrow win at Scotstoun at the end of 2019. They have qualified automatically for next year’s World Cup, to be held in New Zealand. Scotland will face Samoa, Colombia and either Kazakhstan or Hong Kong in the repechage, from which only the winners progress to the World Cup proper.

“Although this is an excellent opportunity to build momentum for the repechage tournament, we have worked very hard this week to prepare and concentrate for this Test match,” Easson said. “Our focus is 100 per cent on the game this weekend.

“This is a group of players who have played together a lot now and we will use this fixture to keep the team connected ahead of our World Cup repechage games next year and I know the players will want to take the opportunity to represent their country again in front of fans for the first time since that Japan game in 2019.

“We have spoken this week about making sure we fully respect Japan. They have waited a long time to play again after beating us at Scotstoun in 2019 and they will be stronger for their game against Wales. Japan are a very skilful team who like to play with tempo. They have some very talented individuals and I have no doubt that this will be a very exciting match.”

Scotland (v Japan at the DAM Health Stadium, Sunday 4.10pm): C Rollie; R Lloyd, H Smith, L Thomson, M Gaffney; H Nelson, H Maxwell; L Bartlett, L Skeldon, C Belisle, E Wassell, S Bonar, R McLachlan, R Malcolm (captain), J Konkel. Substitutes: M Wright, A Young, L Cockburn, L McMillan, E Gallagher, S Law, E Wills, S Campbell.

About Stuart Bathgate 1414 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.