Japan Make 5 Changes for 1st Test vs Ireland

SHIZUOKA (June 15) – Shota Horie will once again captain Japan on Saturday when they take on Ireland at Ecopa Stadium in the first game of the two-test series.

Horie, who won his 50th cap last week in the 33-21 win over Romania, leads a side that shows five changes and one positional switch from the team that started the victory over the Oaks in Kumamoto.

There is one new cap in the side in outside centre William Tupou, while a number of other players get their first chance at playing a Tier One nation.

“Ireland are a strong team that (last week) put 50-odd points on a very committed USA side,” said Japan head coach Jamie Joseph.

“Their set piece is strong, both scrum and line-out, and a real threat to our game. But we know they are strong so our focus has been about playing our way and developing our game.”

Horie packs down between Keita Inagaki and Heiichiro Ito, who both started last week’s game on the bench, while the rest of the pack is unchanged.

Kotaro Yatabe and Uwe Helu line up in the second row and Michael Leitch, Yoshitaka Tokunaga and Amanaki Lelei Mafi continue their partnership in the back row.

In the backs, Yu Tamura is promoted from the bench and starts at flyhalf alongside Fumiaki Tanaka, with Tupou linking up in the centres with Coca-Cola Red Sparks clubmate Timothy Lafaele, who moves from 13 to 12.

Kotaro Matsushima is named on the wing in place of the injured Akihito Yamada with Kenki Fukuoka and Ryuji Noguchi making up the rest of the back three.

“I thought Noguchi played well (against Romania) and wanted to give him another opportunity against strong opposition and see how he reacts under pressure,” Joseph said.

“Matsu is another good player and we lost Aki with injury so its good to have quality players who can play different positions.”

On the bench, Yusuke Niwai, Shintaro Ishihara, Takuma Asahara provide the front-row cover with Hendrik Tui and Shuhei Matsuhashi the two other reserve forwards.

Yutaka Nagare, Derek Carpenter and the versatile Rikiya Matsuda provide the cover for the backs.