Brave Blossoms Announce Team for Final Home Test in 2023

Japan Head Coach, Jamie Joseph has today named his Brave Blossoms side to take on Fiji this Saturday, August 5 in the final match of the Lipovitan D Challenge Cup 2023 Pacific Nations Series. Kicking off at 19:15 Japan local time, at Tokyo’s historic Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, the match against the in-form Flying Fijians will be Japan’s last chance to play in front of their home fans before heading to Europe for Rugby World Cup.

Following last week’s solid 21-16 win over Tonga at a sold-out Hanazono Stadium in Osaka, the team is once again co-captained by Kazuki Himeno at number-eight and reserve halfback, Yutaka Nagare. Joseph has named a mostly unchanged side, with only three new players coming into the matchday 23.

The front-row remains unchanged, with Keita Inagaki and Asaeli Valu at loosehead and tighthead prop respectively, alongside the tireless Atsushi Sakate at hooker. Jiwon Gu and Craig Miller are the reserve props, with Shota Horie named as the reserve rake.

The second-row sees James Moore move from the bench into the starting side. He will pack down alongside the impressive Amato Fakatava, who in just his third test, will be looking to score his third test try in as many weeks.

In the backrow, Pieter ‘Lappies’ Labuschagne, who is coming back from injury makes his long-awaited return to the national team at openside, while Kazuki Himeno once again slots in at number-eight and Jack Cornelsen maintains his position at blindside.

Ben Gunter, who made a promising return to the team last week, moves from starting openside to the bench. He is joined by Kanji Shimokawa who is set to earn his second Japan cap as a backrow replacement after having played his debut test against the All Blacks, last October in Tokyo.

With Brave Blossoms talisman Michael Leitch serving his second and final week of suspension, following the red card he picked up in the match against Samoa, the coaching team, and fans alike will be delighted with the quality and depth Japan has built across the backrow leading into the World Cup.

In the halves, Naoto Saito once again starts the match at halfback, with Yutaka Nagare on the reserves bench. At number-ten, Rikiya Matsuda moves from the bench into the starting playmaker role, with Seungsin Lee moving to the bench.

The centres see the same pairing as last week with the impressive Tomoki Osada earning his second start in his third test at inside-centre, alongside the hard running Dylan Riley at outside-centre. Having both scored a try a piece last weekend against Tonga, the wing combination remains the same, aside from a direct positional swap, with Jone Naikabula moving to the left-wing and Semisi Masirewa now on the right-wing.

Following his try-saving, match winning heroics in the final minutes of last weekend’s match, Kotaro Matsushima moves from the bench, back into the starting fullback position in what will be his 50th test match for Japan. Coming back into the team after missing the last two matches, utility-back, Ryoto Nakamura rounds off the matchday 23 having been named on the reserves bench.  

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

“We were very pleased with last week’s performance. The team has been together for some time now and we’re building well for the World Cup. They’re in good condition around their fitness and strength. They’re coming together well as a team, and I feel that every week we’re delivering more. We just need to get rid of the small mental lapses that put ourselves under pressure. We’ve got a group of very experienced players who are taking responsibility for that, and I am looking forward to watching them play at the weekend.”

Saturday’s match will be telecast live in Japan on JSports 3 from 18:30 and on NTV from 19:00. Live streaming and catch-up will be available on JSports On-demand from 18:30, while the match will also be live streamed on Hulu from 19:00.

Following the match against Fiji, Jamie Joseph will name his 33-player Rugby World Cup squad on Tuesday, August 15. 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 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 KNIGHTS1861161990/6/247
2Atsushi SAKATESAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1801041993/6/2135
3Asaeli VALUSAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1871151989/5/724
5James MOOREURAYASU D-Rocks1951101993/6/1115
6Jack CORNELSENSAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1951101994/10/1314
7Pieter LABUSCHAGNEKubota Spears Funabashi TOKYO-BAY1891061989/1/1115
8Kazuki HIMENOTOYOTA VERBLITZ1871081994/7/2727
10Rikiya MATSUDASAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS181921994/5/331
12Tomoki OSADASAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS179901999/11/252
13Dylan RILEYSAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1871021997/5/212
16Shota HORIESAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1801041986/1/2170
17Craig MILLARSAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1861161990/10/2911
18Jiwon GUKOBELCO KOBE STEELERS1831171994/7/2023
20Ben GunterSAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1951201997/10/246
22Seungsin LEEKOBELCO KOBE STEELERS176852001/1/138


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