Leitch to lead Japan for typhoon-threatened Scotland match
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Japan have handed the captaincy back to talismanic flank Michael Leitch for their typhoon-threatened match against Scotland on Sunday as they bid for a historic World Cup quarterfinal.
Pieter Labuschagne captained the Brave Blossoms for their shock victory against Ireland, as well as their win against Samoa.
But Leitch, who made a barnstorming impact off the bench against the Irish, regains the armband for a match that will see Japan sensationally top Pool A if they can overcome Gregor Townsend’s Scots.
Organisers will assess the impact of Typhoon Hagibis, due to strike the area on Saturday, before deciding to whether go ahead with the match in Yokohama at 19.45 (10.45 GMT) on Sunday.
Coach Jamie Joseph has made four changes to the XV that started the 38-19 bonus point win over Samoa that put Japan in the driving seat in the closely contested pool.
Wing Kenki Fukuoka, who scored the winning try against Ireland, replaces Lomano Lemeki, who drops out of the matchday 23.
Hooker Shota Horie wins back his place in the starting side after dropping to the bench against Samoa.
Veteran lock Luke Thompson, who at 38 is the oldest player in the tournament, also wins a starting place, at the expense of Wimpie van der Walt who also drops out of the 23.
Finally, fullback William Tupou comes in for Ryohei Yamanaka who is now on the bench.
Seven of the players named on Friday featured in Japan’s 10-45 loss against Scotland at the 2015 World Cup that ultimately cost them a first quarterfinal place despite their heroic defeat of South Africa.
Three teams – Japan, Scotland and Ireland – are battling for two quarterfinal places from Pool A.
If Ireland fail to beat Samoa on Saturday, Japan would be through regardless of their result against Scotland.
However, if Japan lose to Scotland, they could repeat the heartbreak of 2015 when they were knocked out despite recording three wins.
The major unknown is Typhoon Hagibis, which has already forced the cancellation of two World Cup matches – England v France and New Zealand v Italy, both scheduled on Saturday.
The powerful storm, which is forecast to make a direct hit on Tokyo and nearby Yokohama, should be well into the sea by the scheduled kick-off time of the Japan-Scotland match.
However, organisers will need to assess potential damage to the facilities and any transport disruption before deciding whether the game can take place. This could happen as late as six hours before kick-off.
Japan: 15 William Tupou, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Yutaka Nagare, 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Michael Leitch (captain), 5 James Moore, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Jiwon Koo, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki.
Replacements: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Isileli Nakajima, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 Uwe Helu, 20 Hendrik Tui, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Ryohei Yamanaka.
Date: Sunday, October 13
Venue: International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama City
Kick-off: 19.45 (10.45 GMT; 11.45 UK & Ireland time)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Matthew Carley (England)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)