TOKYO, 13 Oct – The weather has figured strongly in the final weekend of pool games at Rugby World Cup 2019, but one big question remains on the minds of the host nation's fans: what do the Brave Blossoms have to do to qualify for the quarter-finals for the first time?
As the pool tables show, their fate is in their own hands. The final pool game is Japan v Scotland at International Stadium Yokohama on Sunday evening.
Ireland’s bonus-point victory over Samoa has put them top of Pool A with 16 points ahead of Japan v Scotland.
Japan, currently on 14, need two points to be certain of a place in the quarter-finals. They would have to do something they have never done in seven previous attempts stretching back to 1991: beat Scotland (four points), or draw with them (two points).
Even if Japan play well in defeat they could go through. For that to happen, Japan must score more bonus points than Scotland. There are two on offer for the losers: one for scoring four or more tries, and one for keeping the margin of victory to seven points or less. Should the Scots score four or more tries themselves, Japan will need both those bonus points.
A Scotland victory without a bonus point would leave Japan needing one point to qualify as runners-up, and two to win the group. The runners-up play New Zealand in the quarter-finals, while the pool winners take on South Africa.
Ireland’s qualification for the quarter-finals means Japan v Scotland is effectively a knockout match. Or a knockout match with a difference, because the losers could still be the ultimate winners.
It is on course to be one of the biggest sporting parties of the year: whether in Japan or Scotland remains to be seen.