Exeter born John Scott was in the same mould as England teammate Roger Uttley in that he could play in either the second or back rows. Indeed, John played three times at lock forward and earned thirty-one caps in his favoured position of Number Eight. He was also one of a number of Englishmen of his era to play for a Welsh club along with the likes of Tony Swift and Maurice Colclough. Colclough and Swift both played for Swansea, whilst John captained Cardiff in four successive seasons and helped them win five out of six Welsh Cup Finals between 1981 and 1987.
His international debut came in 1978 at the age of 23 in a defeat by France, though England did achieve respectability that year by winning two of their four matches. He played in all four of matches of the 1979 season, one as a replacement, and England ended with a record of one win, one draw and two losses. However, with the exception of the last quarter of an hour against Wales where they conceded four tries, England performed well, particularly up front. In addition to his efforts in the Five Nations, John also featured in the 10-9 loss to the All Blacks at the end of the year.
Though the defeat was only by one point, it was seen as a terrible failure given that everything appeared to be in England's favour going into the game. Indeed, just a week before, the Northern Division had thrashed the Blacks 21-9 thanks to the efforts of Roger Uttley, Tony Neary and Bill Beaumont. John in particular received heavy criticism for his performance at Twickenham, and former All Black scrum-half Chris Laidlaw wrote in the Telegraph that Scott was: "playing his own private game, detached from the real contest, like some kind of mercenary soldier accompanying the main body of the troops." (Jon Collins)