Japan opt for physicality against France
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Japan head coach Jamie Joseph said on Friday he had dropped former Clermont wing Kotara Matsushima to the bench for this weekend’s year-end Nations Series Test with France for “physicality reasons”.
Matsushima, who spent two seasons in the French Top 14 weighs 178kg and has been replaced by 186kg-centre Shogo Nakano with 187kg Dylan Riley moving to the flank for Sunday’s game in Toulouse.
“We want a bit more physicality,” Joseph told reporters.
“Kotaro is a weapon on attack but on defence we’re going to get a lot of pressure.
“Bringing him off the bench brings pressure off the team around those areas.
“Kotaro will impact the game later on when it gets a bit loose. He’ll be dangerous,” he added.
New Zealander Joseph has made four other changes from last Saturday’s loss to England.
Scrumhalf Noaoto Saito, flyhalf Seungsin Lee, wing Siosaia Fifita, back-row Pieter Labuschagne come in with Takuya Yamasawa, Yutaka Nagare, Gerhard van den Heever and Tevita Tatafu out of the starting lineup.
Between the five, only 33-year-old Labuschagne has more than 11 international appearances with next year’s Rugby World Cup less than 10 months away.
“Our mentality behind our team is to give these guys an opportunity to test themselves under extreme pressure,” Joseph said.
“All our team is light on Test match experience.
“It’s important for the World Cup they get a taste of what it will be like, if they make the team,” he added.
Japan: 15 Ryohei Yamanaka; 14 Dylan Riley, 13 Shogo Nakano, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Siosaia Fifita; 10 Seungsin Lee, 9 Naoto Saito; 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 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 Shuhei Takeuchi, 19 Wimpie van der Walt, 20 Tevita Tatafu, 21 Yutaka Nagare, 22 Hayata Nakao, 23 Kotaro Matsushima
Date: Sunday, November 20
Venue: Stadium de Toulouse, Toulouse
Kick-off: 14.00 (13.00 GMT; 22.00 Japan time)
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland) & Chris Busby (Ireland)
TMO: Tom Foley (Ireland)