Scotland’s hopes of maintaining their 100 percent record over Japan has been given a boost with news that Richie Gray, the giant second row, should join his colleagues in the squad on Monday and could come into consideration for the opening Test on Saturday.
The 6ft 10ins second row is a key player against the Asian side who traditionally struggle to match the size and power of the European teams, but he was late joining the travelling party after being released to play for Castres in their wild-card play-off in the French Top14.
The plan was always for him to travel this week but the fact that the club lost to Montpelier 28-9 in his last game for them before moving to Toulouse next season, simplified his movements and he is expected to play some part in Tuesday’s training session before the team is announced on Thursday.
“He is looking forward to it,” said Matt Taylor, the Scotland assistant coach as the team prepared for their first training session since arriving in Tokyo.
“We have not named the team – we will wait to see what mental and physical shape he is in. He has been very good for us lately so depending on how he turns up will determine whether he comes in to consideration.
“Today’s training is not a full-on session in terms of a lot of the contact, more about organisation. We have a hard session on Tuesday, when the bulk of the work will be done, and we hope he [Gray] will be involved in that.”
Both teams are already reasonably familiar with each other, having met only nine months ago in the World Cup.
On that occasion, Scotland exploited Japan’s exhaustion after beating South Africa only four days earlier to run away with the match in the final quarter, but, even so, Taylor and his colleagues have been poring over the video of Japan’s win over Canada at the weekend for clues about how things have changed.
“We have seen it over and are going over it in a bit detail,” he said. “It is similar to how the Sunwolves have been playing, they are quick to contact, they try to play a high-tempo game.
“There are a few similarities to how Japan played in the World Cup in some of their shapes and that they are trying to keep the ball in hand. They are kicking a wee bit more than they have in the past, so whether they keep that up we are not sure.
“Japan is only one ranking place below us, a very good side. We want to play well and put a marker down.
“We will be looking to go out there and win the game and put in a performance. I imagine both teams will be better for running together the second time around, we will be looking to play well and win.”