Scotland have confirmed that they will play a two-test tour to recent Rugby World Cup pool rivals Japan next summer.
The Scots will reacquaint themselves with the “Brave Blossoms” on the weekends of June 18 and June 25 next year, at venues and times still to be confirmed. The Scots defeated Japan 45-10 at Gloucester in their opening pool match of the World Cup back in September, scoring five tries just a few days after the Japanese had recorded their historic victory over South Africa in Brighton.
The Blossoms, then coached by Eddie Jones who has since been appointed the new head coach of England, went on to become the first team at a Rugby World Cup to win three games but not qualify for the quarter-finals. However finishing third in the pool behind Scotland and the Springboks does mean that they do not have to pre-qualify for the next World Cup, which they will host in 2019.
Scotland have won all five of the test matches between the countries, although these two tests will be the first full-cap internationals under World Rugby regulations to be played between the countries in Japan. As well as the Gloucester match, the Scots defeated Japan in the 2003 World Cup at Townsville in Australia, at the 1991 tournament at Murrayfield, and won matches at McDiarmid Park in Perth (2004) and at Murrayfield just over a year ago.
Head coach Vern Cotter said the two tests represented “a stern assessment from one of the most improved teams in the world.”
He added: “Japan are forging a very strong rugby culture and will be boosted by the inclusion of a Japanese franchise in Super Rugby for the first time that year, all of which will combine to create a very testing environment for our touring group of players.”
The JRU have not yet confirmed who will coach their international side after Jones’ departure, although Cotter’s fellow New Zealander Jamie Joseph, coach of the Highlanders franchise in Super Rugby who played in Japan after a distinguished career with the All Blacks, has been mentioned as a leading candidate.
Scotland were expected to play a single test match against New Zealand on the world’s champions’ home turf for the first time since 2000 by way of World Rugby’s designated schedule of matches between ranked countries, but it’s understood the fixture has been dropped by mutual consent.