Joseph makes minor changes ahead of 2nd test with Italy

TOKYO (June 14) – Michael Leitch will lead a Japan side that shows just one change and one positional switch when they look to wrap up their two-match test series with Italy on Saturday.

Following last week’s 34-17 win over the Azzurri in Oita, head coach Jamie Joseph has stuck with the same 23 players. However, he has opted to shuffle his back row with Yoshitaka Tokunaga coming in at blindside flanker, Kazuki Himeno moving to No. 8 and Amanaki Lelei Mafi dropping to the bench.

“We made the decision to play Tokunaga early,” said Joseph. “He has played very well for the Sunwolves and deserves a start.”

“Mafi has had a big workload for the Rebels and pretty much plays every minute of every game for them and we think we need to have a real impact in the closing stages of the game, which is why we have decided to put him on the bench.”

Wimpie van der Walt and Samuela Anise will pack down in the second row ahead of Tokugana, Leitch and Himeno with Shota Horie, Keita Inagaki and Koo Ji Won in the front row.

Fumiaki Tanaka and Yu Tamura showed all their experience last week and are rewared with another game, with Tamura set to win his 50th cap.

Timothy Lafaele and William Tupou will play in the centres with last week’s three other try scorers, Kotaro Matsushima, Kenki Fukuoka and Lomano Lava Lemeki, making up the back three.

Yusuke Niwai, Shintaro Ishihara and Takuma Asahara are the reserve front rowers with Uwe Helu and Mafi the two other replacement forwards.

Yutaka Nagare, Rikiya Matsuda and Ryoto Nakamura are the reserve backs.