Brave Blossoms Team Announced For Tonga Match

Japan Head Coach, Jamie Joseph has today named his Brave Blossoms side to take on Tonga this Saturday, July 29 at Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Osaka. Kicking off at 19:30 Japan local time, the match will be the second of three tests making up the Lipovitan D Challenge Cup 2023 Pacific Nations Series. With both Tonga and Japan having won nine-a-piece of the 18 test matches they’ve played, whoever wins on Saturday will hold the bragging between the two sides.

Co-Captained by Kazuki Himeno who starts this week at number-eight and reserve halfback, Yutaka Nagare, the side sees four players come into the matchday 23, along with nine positional changes from the team that went down 22-24 against Samoa last weekend in Sapporo. 

In the front-row Keita Inagaki and Atsushi Sakate start once again at loosehead and hooker, while at tighthead, Asaeli Valu moves back into the matchday 23 after missing the Samoa match. Jiwon Gu moves to the reserves bench alongside reserve prop, Craig Miller, while hooker, Shota Horie is set to earn his 70th Brave Blossoms cap from the bench.

The second-row sees a change, with Uwe Helu, who started the last two matches from the bench coming into the starting side alongside Amato Fakatava who scored a try last week in a standout performance in his maiden test match. James Moore moves from the starting side to the bench as the reserve lock.

In the backrow, Ben Gunter returns to the Brave Blossoms for the first time this year at openside-flanker, with Kazuki Himeno at number-eight and Jack Cornelsen maintains his position on the blindside. Tevita Tatafu also comes into the team to add his significant physical presence as the replacement backrow-forward on the reserves bench.

At halfback, there is once again a straight swap between Yutaka Nagare, who moves to the bench to make way for Naoto Saito, while Seungsin Lee retains the starting playmaker role for the third week running. In the centres there is one change, with Tomoki Osada earning his first start in his second cap at inside-centre, alongside the hard running Dylan Riley who retains his position at outside-centre.

The back-three sees the return of Semisi Masirewa on the left-wing, while Jone Naikabula once again slots in on the right-wing and the ever-reliable Ryohei Yamanaka starts at fullback. On the bench, Rikiya Matsuda retains his position as reserve playmaker for the third week running, while Kotaro Matsushima moves from the right-wing to the bench as the back-three reserve.

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

“Last week was really disappointing for the team as we had prepared well and started the game well. When we got the red card, it put the players under a lot of pressure, but that will be a big learning for us going forward as were expecting red and yellow cards to play a big part in the way the game is adjudicated at the World Cup.

“Coming into this week, the boys understand that accuracy will be very important when it comes to defending and tackling, and the game against Tonga is going to be another massive challenge. They’ve come to Japan with five ex-All Blacks and one ex-Wallaby, so World Rugby’s rule changes have really allowed them to strengthen their team.”

Saturday’s match will be telecast live in Japan on JSports 1 from 19:00 and on NHK from 19:30. Live streaming and catch-up will be available on JSports On-demand from 19:00, while the match will also be live streamed on NHK Plus from 19:30.

Following the match against Tonga the Brave Blossoms 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 BirthCaps
1Keita INAGAKISAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1861161990/6/246
2Atsushi SAKATESAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1801041993/6/2134
3Asaeli VALUSAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1871151989/5/723
5Uwe HELUKubota Spears Funabashi TOKYO-BAY1931201990/7/1217
6Jack CORNELSENSAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1951101994/10/1313
7Ben GunterSAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1951201997/10/245
8Kazuki HIMENOTOYOTA VERBLITZ1871081994/7/2726
10Seungsin LEEKOBELCO KOBE STEELERS176852001/1/137
12Tomoki OSADASAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS179901999/11/251
13Dylan RILEYSAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1871021997/5/211
16Shota HORIESAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1801041986/1/2169
17Craig MILLARSAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1861161990/10/2910
18Jiwon GUKOBELCO KOBE STEELERS1831171994/7/2022
19James MOOREURAYASU D-Rocks1951101993/6/1114
22Rikiya MATSUDASAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS181921994/5/330

Japan vs Tonga Past Results:

August 3, 2019 (W) 41-7 Hanazono
November 18, 2017 (W) 39-6 Toulouse

August 3, 2015 (L) 20-31 Burnaby

May 25, 2013 (L) 17-27 Mitsuzawa

June 10, 2012 (L) 20-24 Tokyo

September 21, 2011 (L) 18-31 Whangārai (RWC 2011)

July 9, 2011 (W) 28-27 Suva

June 26, 2010 (W) 26-23 Apia

June 27, 2009 (W) 21-19 Lautoka

June 15, 2008 (W) 35-13 Sendai

June 2, 2007 (W) 20-17 Coffs Harbour

June 4, 2006 (L) 16-57 Kitakyushu

May 26, 2002 (L) 29-41 Kumagaya

June 3, 2000 (L) 25-26 Tokyo

May 8, 1999 (W) 44-17 Tokyo

February 19, 1995 (L) 16-24 Tokyo

February 11, 1995 (L) 16-47 Mizuho

April 8, 1990 (W) 28-16 Tokyo


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