Japan Make Changes for U.S. Clash
SUVA, Fiji, (Aug.9) – Japan have made seven changes and two positional switches to their starting XV ahead of their final game in this year’s Pacific Nations Cup.
Michael Leitch once again leads the team as they look to follow up on wins over Fiji and Tonga and defeat the United States at ANZ Stadium to lift the silverware.
Leitch, who will wear the No. 6 jersey, is part of a pack that shows four changes with Pieter “Lappies” Labuschagne returning at openside flanker and Hendrik Tui making his first appearance of the campaign at No. 8.
There is a brand new second row pairing with James Moore and Uwe Helu providing strength and physicality behind the same front row that has started every game so far in Keita Inagaki, Shota Horie and Asaeli Ai Valu.
In the backs, Fumiaki Tanaka returns from injury and will win his 70th cap, while flyhalf Yu Tamura will make his third straight start to make it 57 international appearances for his country.
Timothy Lafaele switches from outside to inside centre and Will Tupou moves from 15 to 13 in a new midfield pairing, while the back three sees Ryohei Yamanaka come in at fullback and Kenki Fukuoka promoted from the bench to join right wing Kotaro Matsushima.
Atsushi Sakate, Koki Yamamoto and Yusuke Kizu provide the cover for the front row, with Wimpie van der Walt and Kazuki Himeno the two other replacement forwards.
Backs Yutaka Nagare, Rikiya Matsuda and Lomano Lava Lemeki will all look to inject plenty of pace should they come off the bench.
Following Saturday’s game, the Brave Blossoms have one more test match – against South Africa on Sept. 6 at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium – before they open their Rugby World Cup campaign against Russia in Tokyo on Sept. 20.