HAMAMATSU, 10 Oct - Japan and Scotland have faced each other only seven times, with three of those encounters coming at Rugby World Cups. Their fourth tournament meeting in Yokohama on Sunday has all the ingredients to be a classic, with a quarter-final place at stake for both teams.

While Scotland have never lost to Japan, their games have never been short of drama from their first meeting at RWC 1991 to their last encounter in Tokyo three years ago.  

Scotland 47-9 Japan

Murrayfield, 5 Oct 1991, World Cup

Scotland, playing on home soil in the second RWC, launched their campaign with a seven-tries-to-one victory, with centre Scott Hastings grabbing the first. Doddie Weir is pictured on the attack, below.

"Because I tore my hamstring in New Zealand in 1987 and literally only played seconds of one game of that inaugural World Cup (against Romania), I was determined to make amends in 91," Hastings said. "So I had the mindset that I have to deliver in this match.

"The first time I got the ball, I just ran a great angle and scored Scotland’s opening try. It set me up for the campaign and gave me a real confidence boost.

"I was going to duck in for a second try but there was a wee Japanese winger who absolutely crunched me into the West Stand at Murrayfield. I knew I’d been hit hard because I was a little bit concussed. We knew Japan were tricky. They had a light scrum, but great handling ability and we had to negate that."

Japan also went on to lose to Ireland but did beat Zimbabwe to earn their first World Cup victory. Scotland reached the semi-finals for the first – and only - time, before bowing out 9-6 against England.

Scotland 32-11 Japan

Dairy Farmers Stadium, Townsville, 12 Oct 2003, World Cup                       

Japan gave their all, making 168 tackles - including the one below by Hirotoki Onozawa on Gregor Townsend - and were within a score of the lead until the last quarter-hour. The Japan Times rated it "arguably the best performance the national team has put together". 

Again this was their opening game of the tournament, in steamy Queensland. 

"The conditions in the build-up were really hot and humid, but it wasn’t quite as bad as we expected on match day," recalled Chris Paterson, the only Scot to play in four World Cups, who crossed for the first and third of Scotland’s five tries.

"Initially, it was difficult to break them down and we made a lot of mistakes. We were inaccurate throughout and scored a few tries late on.

"It was a tough game and we didn’t play particularly well. The Japanese were physical, particularly in midfield and the back-row. We stumbled our way to victory really. It was less comfortable than the scoreline suggested."

Japan went on to lose all their four pool games, while Scotland reached the quarter-finals, where they lost against hosts Australia.

Scotland 100-8 Japan

McDiarmid Park, Perth, 13 Nov 2004

Their third meeting took place in Perth, in between back-to-back tests for Scotland against Australia. The hosts racked up a century of points for the first and only time in test rugby, with Paterson notching a personal-best 40, including a hat-trick of tries and 11 conversions as the hosts scored 15 tries in all.

"We actually fell 8-7 behind early on but we were far more disciplined and structured than they were,” said Paterson, Scotland’s leading test points scorer with 809, pictured below in the match. "We scored a lot of tries from set-piece plays and organised moves that we had identified beforehand.

"Once the initial emotion had left the game, we really took hold of it. We got a lot of possession, made a lot of yards and scored a lot of points. It was weird; I’d never played in a 100-point game before, but it was definitely a proper test match."

"Japan had a massive change in personnel from the year before (five players made debuts) but there wasn’t a lack of aggression or emotion or power from them.  There were still points in the game when we were really up against it.

"Robbie Russell scored the final try to make it 98-8 and I had to nail the conversion to make it 100. The funny thing was, I was looking at the scoreboard and thinking, ‘What are they going to do if this gets to 100? There were only two spaces on the board to show the points."

Scotland 45-10 Japan

Kingsholm, Gloucester, 23 September 2015, World Cup

Japan had only had three days to recover from 'The Brighton Miracle' - their sensational 34-32 win against South Africa - while Scotland were playing their first pool match. Scott Hastings was commentating on the match.

"I remember how close it was for a while (Scotland led 12-7 at half-time)," he recalled. "Japan posed Scotland problems and they showed their commitment throughout that game with their fantastic tackling."

Japan led 7-6 early on after a try from Amanaki Mafi, but Greig Laidlaw’s four penalties gave Scotland a measure of control at half-time. It was still 12-10 when Japan lost totemic number eight Mafi to injury early in the second half, and the clinical Scots then scored five tries to romp to victory. Finn Russell, pictured celebrating above, scored the last of them.

"Scotland played to their strengths that day – their set-piece, a couple of driving mauls from lineouts, they won a couple of scrum penalties," Hastings said. "You could just see the Japanese tire towards the end."

Japan 16-21 Scotland

Second test, 25 June 2016, Tokyo Stadium

Scotland had won the first game of a two-test series 26-13 in Toyota City with an unconvincing display and were under the cosh in the second test in Tokyo, trailing 13-9 at the interval.

The then Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan came to watch their first ever rugby match, pictured above, but arrived only at half-time and missed a sensational 90-metre end-to-end Japanese try finished by Kaito Shigeno. Keisuke Uchida is pictured putting Japan on the attack,  below.

Henry Pyrgos, who joined the current Scotland RWC squad as a replacement for the injured Ali Price, was captain that day. He landed three first-half penalties, but was replaced early in the second half by Greig Laidlaw, who helped assert some control and kicked four penalties to dig out a scratchy win.

"It was really hot and humid, with a slippery ball, and Japan were really good, really fast and fit, moving the ball wide,” Pyrgos recalled. "We were not as accurate and dominant as we had intended to be, and it was a tough game.

"I remember the crowd was loud that day. I can’t imagine how loud it will be for this (Sunday) game."

 RNS bp/mj/bo