Brave Blossoms to Face Samoa In Opening Pacific Nations Match

Japan Head Coach, Jamie Joseph has today named his Brave Blossoms side to take on Samoa this Saturday, July 22 at Sapporo Dome in Hokkaido. Kicking off at 14:50 Japan local time, the match will be the Brave Blossom’s first test for the year and marks the start of the three-match Lipovitan D Challenge Cup 2023 Pacific Nations Series.

The match takes on extra significance, with Japan also set to face Samoa in Toulouse in their Pool D clash at Rugby World Cup. It will be the third World Cup in a row that Japan has drawn Samoa in the same pool, and their fourth ever World Cup match. While Japan have won the last three matches, the men from the Pacific hold the bragging rights having won 11 of the 16 matches contested between the two sides since they first played back in 1991.

Co-Captained by Atsushi Sakate at hooker and Kazuki Himeno at openside-flanker, the team sees three new players brought into the side that went down 27-41 to the All Blacks XV, last weekend in Kumamoto. While Joseph has picked a predominately experienced side, the team also includes four uncapped players who are set to play their first test match for Japan.

Kazuki Himeno

In the front-row Keita Inagaki and Jiwon Gu continue their partnership as starting loose-head and tight-head respectively, while at hooker, there is straight swap from last week, with Atsushi Sakate starting at rake, while 68-cap veteran, Shota Horie moves to the bench.

The second-row remains unchanged for the third week in a row, with James Moore and the uncapped Amato Fakatava locking down together in the engine room. In the backrow, Jack Cornelsen starts again at blindside, with Himeno moving from number-eight to the openside flank. In his 79th test for Japan, Michael Leitch moves from the bench to anchor the back of the scrum at number-eight. Having started the last two matches at openside, the impressive yet uncapped, Shota Fukui starts the match from the reserves bench.

Craig Miller retains his position as reserve prop and is joined by Shinnosuke Kakinaga who comes back into the team after missing last weekend’s match. The reserve forwards are rounded off by the versatile Uwe Helu, who covers both lock and the back-row and who starts the match from the bench for the second week running.

At halfback, there is a straight swap between Naoto Saito who moves to the bench to make way for the 30-cap Yutaka Nagare, while Seungsin Lee retains the starting playmaker role at number-ten. In the centres there is one change, with Shogo Nakano coming into the team at inside-centre, alongside the hard running Dylan Riley who retains his position at outside-centre.

The back-three sees a rework from last week with the uncapped Jone Naikabula moving from the right wing to the left wing, opposite Kotaro Matsushima who moves from fullback to the right-wing. At fullback, the ever-reliable Ryohei Yamanaka comes into the team for the first time this year.

The bench sees Rikiya Matsuda as reserve playmaker, while the uncapped Tomoki Osada is in line to play his first test for Japan after being named as the back-three reserve for the third week running.

Commenting on the Brave Blossoms’ team selection, Japan Head Coach Jamie Joseph said:

“We’re using this Pacific Nations Series as a steppingstone to Rugby World Cup and Samoa is a massive test for us. We’ve played them 16 times in the past and out of those matches, have only won five, so we know we’re up against a very strong team and a team that we will meet again at the World Cup. It’s definitely a huge challenge, and one the team is looking forward to.”

Saturday’s match will be telecast live in Japan on JSports 1 from 14:20 and on NTV from 14:30. Live streaming and catch-up will be available on JSports On-demand from 14:20, while the match will also be live streamed by Hulu from 14:30.

Following the match against Samoa, the Brave Blossoms take on Tonga on Saturday, July 29 at Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Osaka. They then return to Tokyo to play Fiji at Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium on Saturday, August 5 in the final match of the Lipovitan D Challenge Cup 2023 Pacific Nations Series.

The Brave Blossoms will then travel to Italy to play the Azzurri in their final Rugby World Cup warm-up on Saturday, August 26. The team then head to their official Rugby World Cup Base Camp in Toulouse to prepare for their opening Pool D match against Chile on Sunday, September 10 at Stadium de Toulouse.

They will then face England on Sunday, September 17 at Stade de Nice, in Nice before returning to Stadium de Toulouse to take on Samoa on Thursday, September 28. The Brave Blossom’s final pool match will be against Argentina on Sunday, October 8 at Stade de la Beaujoire, in Nantes.


No.NameTeamHeightWeightDate of Birth
1Keita INAGAKISAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1861161990/6/2
2Atsushi SAKATESAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1801041993/6/21
3Jiwon GUKOBELCO KOBE STEELERS1831171994/7/20
4James MOOREURAYASU D-Rocks1951101993/6/11
6Jack CORNELSENSAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1951101994/10/13
7Kazuki HIMENOTOYOTA VERBLITZ1871081994/7/27
10Seungsin LEEKOBELCO KOBE STEELERS176852001/1/13
13Dylan RILEYSAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1871021997/5/2
16Shota HORIESAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1801041986/1/21
17Craig MILLARSAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1861161990/10/29
19Uwe HELUKubota Spears Funabashi TOKYO-BAY1931201990/7/12
20Shota FUKUISAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1861011999/9/28
22Rikiya MATSUDASAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS181921994/5/3
23Tomoki OSADASAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS179901999/11/25


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