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Japan name one debutant among team of World Cup stars to face the Lions

Jamie Joseph’s men haven’t played a Test since 2019.

Japan haven't played a Test since their 2019 exploits.
Japan haven't played a Test since their 2019 exploits.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

JAPAN HEAD COACH Jamie Joseph has named a familiar-looking starting XV for his team’s clash with the Lions in Edinburgh on Saturday.

It will be the Brave Blossoms’ first Test match since their home 2019 World Cup, in which they reached the quarter-finals after beating Ireland and Scotland.

22-year-old Siosaia Fifita will debut on the left wing against the Lions this weekend but Joseph has otherwise gone for players with Test experience and some proven combinations.

Fifita is joined in the back three by Ryohei Yamanaka and Kotaro Matsushima, who scored five tries at the World Cup, while the skillful Timothy Lafaele and second playmaker Ryoto Nakamura rekindle their centre partnership.

The highly-experienced Yu Tamura is joined in the halfbacks by Kaito Shigeno, with World Cup scrum-half Yutaka Nagare absent from the travelling squad.

Atsushi Sakate takes over at hooker in a front row that also includes Keita Inagaki and Jiwon Koo, as Wimpie van der Walt and James Moore – two players who qualified via residency – partner up in the second row.

While outstanding back row Kazuki Himeno is only on the bench after his long-haul travel from New Zealand after the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final, the Japanese back row is still full of class – captain Michael Leitch combines with powerful number eight Amanaki Mafi and hard-working openside Lappies Labuschagné.

Joseph has opted for a 6-2 split of forwards and backs on the Japan bench, with Craig Miller and Jack Cornelson – two more residency-qualified players – in line for their Test debuts.

Japan (v Lions):

15. Ryohei Yamanaka
14. Kotaro Matsushima
13. Timothy Lafaele
12. Ryoto Nakamura
11. Siosaia Fifita
10. Yu Tamura
9. Kaito Shigeno

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1. Keita Inagaki
2. Atsushi Sakate
3. Jiwon Koo
4. Wimpie van der Walt
5. James Moore
6. Michael Leitch (captain)
7. Lappies Labuschagné
8. Amanaki Mafi

Replacements:

16. Kosuke Horikoshi
17. Craig Millar
18. Asaeli Ai Valu
19. Jack Cornelson
20. Kazuki Himeno
21. Tevita Tatafu
22. Naoto Saito
23. Rikiya Matsuda.

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