Joseph Names Team for ARC Opener
TOKYO (April 20) – Japan coach Jamie Joseph has named his squad for Saturday’s Asia Rugby Championship opener with South Korea at Incheon Namdong Asiad Rugby Stadium.
The 23-man contains 11 uncapped players as the Brave Blossoms start a busy test-match year.
The side will be led by Yutaka Nagare, one of the 11 players wearing the national team jersey for the first time.
The pack contains just three players who have experienced test-match rugby in hooker Takeshi Hino, tighthead prop Takayuki Watanabe and lock Kazuhiko Usami.
Hino packs down between vice-captain Shintaro Ishihara and Watanabe with Yuya Odo partnering Usami in the engine room, while the back row sees Daiki Yanagawa join up with Naoki Ozawa and Yoshitaka Tokunaga.
In the backs, Nagare teams up with fellow debutant Jumpei Ogura at halfback with Ryoto Nakamura and Ryohei Yamanaka in the centres.
The back three consists of the student pair of Ryuji Noguchi and Seiya Ozaki and Amanaki Lotoahea, who was part of the Brave Blossoms squad in the November 2016 tests.
The bench, like the starting XV contains a mix of uncapped players and those with limited test-match experience.
Atsushi Sakate, Kohei Asahori and Genki Sudo provide the front-row cover, with Naohiro Kotaki and Yoshiya Hosoda the two other replacement forwards.
Takahiro Ogawa, Rikiya Matsuda and Chikara Ito are the three reserve backs.
Following the game in Incheon, the Brave Blossoms return to Japan to take on South Korea and Hong Kong on April 29 and May 6, respectively, at Tokyo’s Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.
They round out their ARC campaign in Hong Kong on May 13.