EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — The memory of losing to Tonga for the first time a year ago in Aberdeen ensures Scotland isn't taking Japan for granted before their rugby test at Murrayfield on Saturday.
There are similarities between the matches. Scotland is at home, and heavily favored against a second-tier opponent it has never lost to. Andy Robinson quit as coach after the 21-15 loss to Tonga, and Scotland rebounded to finish third in the Six Nations. But the Scots don't want to fall so far again.
"We saw last year at Pittodrie (Stadium) what can happen if you don't take these games seriously enough," Scotland midfielder Matt Scott said. "We don't want that happening to us again. We recovered pretty quickly from that Tonga defeat and did well in the Six Nations. But the feeling of that day is still ingrained in everybody's memory. It wasn't a pleasant experience at all and it's not something I want to be repeating.
"Johnno (coach Scott Johnson) has told us to play each test like it's our last. Japan are a quality side and we can't take them lightly. OK, they are an emerging nation but they have beaten the likes of Fiji and the United States, good teams. They will be targeting us for a win and will be a very dangerous side."
The matchup also gives them the chance to size up the other before they probably meet in the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Japan has yet to qualify, but is expected to join Scotland's pool, which includes the Springboks, who arrive next week.
"This is a huge chance for us to put down a marker ahead of the World Cup," Scotland winger Tommy Seymour said. "We want to make sure that come the tournament, we have confidence going in against those teams. We know that 22 months down line we will face them again and we want to let them know what is coming.
"Japan are first up and they are not the minnows some people would have you believe. Not at all. It would be very dangerous of us to think they will be anything less than a quality test nation who will give us a quality game."
Seymour and lock Tim Swinson, who played in the summer quadrangular tournament in South Africa, are the only Scots who will make their first appearances at Murrayfield. It will be the first time for all of the Japanese.
"It's going to be fun playing in such a great stadium," captain Toshiaki Hirose said. "I'm looking forward to showing everyone the Japan Way of rugby and for us to make history and beat a top 10 nation away from home for the first time."
Japan, at full strength in the 54-6 loss to the All Blacks in Tokyo last weekend, has made three changes: Shinya Makabe and Luke Thompson are the new locks, and Kosei Ono was in at flyhalf after Harumichi Tatekawa was injured out of their tour.
Scotland: Sean Maitland, Tommy Seymour, Nick De Luca, Matt Scott, Sean Lamont, Ruaridh Jackson, Greig Laidlaw; David Denton, Kelly Brown (captain), Alasdair Strokosch, Alastair Kellock ,Tim Swinson, Euan Murray, Ross Ford, Ryan Grant. Reserves: Pat MacArthur, Alasdair Dickinson, Geoff Cross, Richie Gray, John Barclay, Henry Pyrgos, Duncan Weir, Duncan Taylor.
Japan: Ayumi Goromaru, Toshiaki Hirose (captain), Male Sa'u, Craig Wing, Kenki Fukuoka, Kosei Ono, Fumiaki Tanaka; Ryu Koliniasi Holani, Michael Broadhurst, Hendrik Tui, Shinya Makabe, Luke Thompson, Kensuke Hatakeyama, Shota Horie, Masataka Mikami. Reserves: Yusuke Aoki, Yusuke Nagae, Hiroshi Yamashita, Hitoshi Ono, Takashi Kikutani, Atsushi Hiwasa, Yu Tamura, Yoshikazu Fujita.