Leitch to Captain Japan in 2nd Test vs Ireland

TOKYO (June 22) – Japan coach Jamie Joseph named his side Thursday for the second test with Ireland.

Michael Leitch will lead the side from blindside flanker and there are eight changes and two positional switches for the game at Ajinomoto Stadium from the side that lost 50-22 last week at Ecopa Stadium.

“We are giving an opportunity to some players who made an impact off the bench last week,” Joseph said after training Thursday at Tatsumi Rugby Ground.

Joseph said the team had responded well to last week’s defeat and that “composure, discipline and intensity” were needed for the full 80 minutes against a side ranked third in the world.

Five of the eight changes made by the former New Zealand and Japan international come in the pack.

Shintaro Ishihara, Yusuke Niwai and Takuma Asahara make up an all new front row. Luke Thompson returns to the side and lines up with Uwe Helu at lock with Shuhei Matsuhashi coming in at openside flanker to join Leitch and Amanaki Lelei Mafi in the back row.

In the backs, there is a new halfback partnership in Yutaka Nagare and Jumpei Ogura with Yu Tamura and Kotaro Matsushima forming a new pairing in the centers, after injury and suspension ruled out a number of midfield players.

Akihito Yamada returns from a hamstring injury and forms a quick and exciting back three with Kenki Fukuoka and Ryuji Noguchi.

On the bench, Keita Inagaki, Takuyuki Watanabe and Shota Horie are the back-up front-rowers with Kotaro Yatabe the reserve lock and Yoshitaka Tokunaga covering the back row.

Fumiaki Tanaka, Rikiya Matsuda and Ryohei Yamanaka are the replacement backs.

“We were far from winning last week and I am confident there has been a correction around the attitude,” Joseph said. “And the leaders have been driving that attitude.”