Japan's Joseph sticks to his guns
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Japan coach Jamie Joseph has announced the Brave Blossoms team to take on England at Twickenham on Saturday.
The Brave Blossoms will be looking to make a positive start to their two-match tour, before taking on France next weekend in Toulouse.
Saturday’s fixture will be the 10th Test between the two sides, since their first meeting in Osaka, back in 1971.
While there have been some close results over the years, including Japan’s 19-21 loss in Osaka in 1979, the Brave Blossoms have yet to taste victory against the English, who are currently ranked fifth in the world.
Having shown their capability in pushing the All Blacks all the way in Tokyo two weeks ago, Japan will be looking to challenge an English side brimming with motivation following their narrow, one-point loss to Argentina a week ago.
Japan will field a near identical starting side to the one that took the field against the All Blacks in Tokyo last month, with the only change being a direct swap on the left wing that sees Gerhard van den Heever move into the starting side, while Siosaia Fifita moves to the replacement bench.
Captain Atsushi Sakate will once again lead the team at hooker and is joined in the front row by the experienced Keita Inagaki at loosehead and Jiwon Gu at tighthead.
The second row sees the continuation of the emerging locking combination of the towering Warner Dearns alongside Jack Cornelsen, while an established back row comprises the dynamic Kazuki Himeno at openside, the talismanic Michael Leith at blindside and 124-kilogram wrecking ball, Tevita Tatafu at No.8.
The experienced Yutake Nagare slots in once again at scrumhalf alongside the young and impressive playmaker Takuya Yamasawa, who earns his sixth Test cap at flyhalf.
With Van den Heever on the left wing, crowd favourite and World Cup hero Kotaro Matsushima covers the right wing, while the hard running, hard tackling centre pairing of Ryoto Nakamura and Dylan Riley slot in at inside and outside centre respectively.
The back three is rounded off by the ever-reliable Ryohei Yamanaka at fullback.
On the bench, Craig Millar retains his position as replacement prop and is joined by hooker Kosuke Horikoshi and prop Yusuke Kizu as the other front row replacements.
Second row replacement Wimpie van der Walt and back row replacements Pieter Labuschagne both return to the side after having played a game each for the Japan XV in their recent three-match series against Australia A.
With Siosaia Fifita starting this weekend’s match from the pine, the two remaining backline reserves are the same as selected against the All Blacks, with livewire scrumhalf Naoto Saito and emerging flyhalf Seungsin Lee rounding off the matchday 23.
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Take it away, boys!
— Japan Rugby (@JRFURugby) November 10, 2022
“As a team we’re very excited about playing at Twickenham,” Joseph said.
“It’s a very unique environment, a real cauldron and one of rugby’s biggest challenges.
“We will be 23 men representing Japan in front of 80,000 English fans, a dynamic that creates real excitement for us.
“We’ve had a big transition in players since the last World Cup and so we’re certainly looking forward to next year, and part of that transition is giving our guys some big games of rugby.
“We missed out on a lot of rugby over the last three years, so these test matches are our vehicle to build our experience. In our recent matches against Australia A and the All Blacks, the guys are getting more familiar, building combinations, and getting used to this level and pace of rugby.
“We’re coming up against a formidable England side which is compounded when they play at their home ground. We’re expecting a big match on Saturday, but we play rugby differently and we know we will have to deal with the pressure and physicality England will bring.
“If we can do that, then we can play our own brand of rugby and create pressure for them.”
Japan: 15 Ryohei Yamanaka, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Dylan Riley, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Gerhard van den Heever, 10 Takuya Yamasawa, 9 Yutaka Nagare, 8 Tevita Tatafu, 7 Kazuki Himeno, 6 Michael Leitch, 5 Jack Cornelsen, 4 Warner Dearns, 3 Jiwon Gu, 2 Atsushi Sakate (captain), 1 Keita Inagaki,
Replacements: 16 Kosuke Horikoshi, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Yusuke Kizu, 19 Wimpie van der Walt, 20 Pieter Labuschagne, 21 Naoto Saito, 22 Seungsin Lee, 23 Siosaia Fifita.
Date: Saturday, November 12
Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
Kick-off: 15.15 (15.15 GMT, 00.15 Sunday, November 13 Japan time)
Referee: James Doleman (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nic Berry (Australia) & Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)