SCOTLAND play their last game of the year today when they take on Japan at the DAM Health Stadium - but it would be more accurate to regard the match as the start of a new chapter rather than the conclusion of an old one.

Its primary purpose is to provide preparation for the World Cup repechage tournament early next year, a tournament for which the Scots qualified the hard way, losing to Italy in their opening match in European qualifying but then going on to win back to back against Spain then Ireland. Those two victories both went down to the wire, with the 20-18 win against the Irish in particular demonstrating new depths of self-belief in the squad. 

That game was won thanks to Sarah Law’s conversion of a late Chloe Rollie try, and hooker Molly Wright, for one, believes that the composed manner of the victory shows that the squad have made significant progress recently. “It was 18 phases for us to score that last try and we knew there was pressure,” says Wright, who starts on the bench this afternoon. “But I think it shows our growth as a team that we can take that pressure and turn it into a positive and do something with it.

“We never had doubt, we were carrying with intent, we were doing things with the ball, and I think for us to be able to close games out like that shows the new character of this team and how it has changed. The team has matured and we have a lot of experience. We work hard as individuals and as a group to get better, and it feels like we are a group that is evolving.

“We are progressing and we want to build on that against Japan and then in the repechage. Japan have just qualified for the World Cup, so it is a chance for us to show the world that we deserve to be there too and that if we qualify we will be a competitive side.”

The repechage tournament is expected to be held in Qatar in January, and will involve Samoa, Colombia and either Kazakhstan or Hong Kong as well as Scotland. It is likely to be a round robin, with six-day turnarounds as in the European qualifying competition. Only the winners will go through to the 12-team finals in New Zealand, joining the hosts, Australia and Wales in Pool A.

Scotland (v Japan at the DAM Health Stadium, today 4.10pm): C Rollie; R Lloyd, H Smith, L Thomson, M Gaffney; H Nelson, J Maxwell; L Bartlett, L Skeldon, C Belisle, E Wassell, S Bonar, R McLachlan, R Malcolm (captain), J Konkel. Substitutes: M Wright, A Young, L Cockburn, L McMillan, E Gallagher, S Law, E Wills, S Campbell.