Japan Side Named for Russia Test

CHELTENHAM, England (Nov. 22) – Japan coach Jamie Joseph has named his 23-man squad to take on Russia on Saturday at Gloucester’s Kingsholm Stadium.

Michael Leitch leads a side that shows four changes and one positional switch from the side that lost 35-15 to England last week at Twickenham.

In the pack, Kazuki Himeno shifts to lock following an injury to Uwe Helu with Hendrik Tui coming in at No. 8.

Tui packs down with Leitch and Masakatsu Nishikawa in the back row, Himeno pairs up with Wimpie van der Walt and there is an unchanged front row in Keita Inagaki, Atsushi Sakate and Koo Ji Won.

Behind the forwards there is a new halfback pairing in Kaito Shigeno and Rikiya Matsuda.

Ryoto Nakamura and Timothy Lafaele will be looking to follow up their impressive showing last week in the centres, while Kenki Fukuoka and William Tupou are joined in the back three by Amanaki Taiyo Lotoahaea.

Having gone with a 6-2 split on the bench last week, Joseph has opted for a more conventional 5-3 split this week despite the power of the Russians.

Kosuke Horikoshi, Masataka Mikami and Hiroshi Yamashita provide the front-row cover with Yuya Odo and Isileli Nakajima the other reserve forwards.

The back-up backs are Yutaka Nagare, Yu Tamura and Yusuke Kajimura, who will earn his first cap should he take to the field.

“Russia holds a different challenge for us. They are actually bigger than England and very powerful,” Joseph said.

“We will try to keep the game as fast as possible but the conditions in England don’t really lend itself to Japanese rugby, which is a fast unstructured quick game.”

“We have to make sure we are able to deal with the size, physicality and power of the Russian team and they have to make sure they can deal with the speed, skill and unstructure of the Japanese team.”