The British and Irish Lions are set to face Japan at Murrayfield in June 2021 ahead of their tour of South Africa.
Lions managing director Ben Calveley made the announcement on Wednesday 21 October 2020.
The encounter will be the first time the Lions have ever faced Japan and will take place on 26 June — the same day as the 2021 English Premiership rugby final.
British and Irish Lions make history
The Test will take place one week before the Lions’ tour curtain-raiser in Cape Town provided travel restrictions and quarantine requirements have been lifted by such time.
The occassion will mark the first time the Lions have played a warm-up Test on home soil since their 25-25 draw with Argentina ahead of the 2005 tour of New Zealand. That match took place at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff.
The proposed Test against Japan will be the Lions’ first match in Scotland.
“One of our objectives is to give Warren (Lions head coach Warren Gatland) and the playing squad as much meaningful preparation as possible before departing on tour, so we are delighted to have agreed this fixture,” said Calveley.
“A Lions Test is one of the most iconic events in world sport, but a huge number of fans from the Home Nations never get the chance to see one live.
“The Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup match will give even more supporters the opportunity to be part of the next chapter in Lions history.”
Japan’s Brave Blossoms
Japan reached the quarter-finals of an incredible Rugby World Cup last year, defeating Ireland, Scotland, Samoa and Russia in pool play before losing to eventual champions the Springboks in the last eight. Their hosting and the team’s performance have generated significant buzz around Japanese rugby.
“We saw Japan play some excellent rugby during the World Cup, and they will come to Edinburgh fully motivated to win,” former Wales coach Gatland added.
“They are a talented side who play high-tempo rugby, so it will be a good challenge for us ahead of the tour and a chance for the match-day squad to put their hands up for Test selection.”
Kiwi Japan coach Jamie Joseph assured that his side were well aware of the significance of facing the Lions, who draw their squad from leading players in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
“We are very much looking forward to playing a Test against the Lions next year,” he said. “It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our players, and we can’t wait for it to come.”
The British and Irish Lions tour tour starting on 3 July will see them play three Tests against the world champion Springboks as part of an eight-match schedule.
The clash with the Premiership final means Gatland is likely to have a weakened squad to choose from for the Japan fixture, with some absentees likely to be involved in the climax of England’s domestic term.
As things stand, most international rugby union is currently being played behind closed doors as a result of the pandemic although limited numbers of fans have taken in the Bledisloe Cup Tests in New Zealand.
“Scottish Rugby and the whole rugby community in Scotland will extend a warm welcome to the Lions and Japan, and we look forward to hosting fans for this unique ‘home game’ at what will no doubt be an enthralling match,” Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson said.
The Springboks look set to come into the series against the Lions having not played an international since lifting the Rugby World Cup late last year.