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Preview: Japan v Italy (09-06-18)

Oita Stadium, Oita Prefecture, Japan
Local time kick off 14:45
NZ Kick Off – 17:45, Sat 09 Jun 2018
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Television match official: Rowan Kitt (England)

JAP (on 75.66 points) at home -vs- ITA (on 71.10 points)


Possible Outcome Rating Point
Will ITA
overtake JAP?
If JAP win by 1-15 points 0.244 75.90 70.86 No
If JAP win by more than 15 0.366 76.03 70.73 No
If result is a draw 0.756 74.90 71.86 No
If ITA win by 1-15 points 1.756 73.90 72.86 No
If ITA win by more than 15 2.634 73.03 73.73 Yes

Italy will be determined to return to winning ways when they take on Japan in Oita on Saturday, in the first encounter of a two-Test series.

Just like 2017, the Azzurri have found the going tough in the international arena this year. They finished their Six Nations campaign winless and at the bottom of the standings so these Tests against Japan present them with an opportunity to boost morale in their ranks.

But achieving that is easier said than done as Japan are no slouches and have shown signs of improvement under the guidance their head coach Jamie Joseph, since he took charge of the team late last year.

Joseph has overseen three Tests and apart from suffering a big loss to Australia in his first game, the Brave Blossoms did well to beat Tonga and draw with France in the other two.

The New Zealander, who is also the Sunwolves coach, has named 13 players from the Tokyo-based Super Rugby outfit in his run-on side for this Test with Melbourne Rebels number eight Amanaki Mafi and Canon Eagles lock Samuela Anise the two players who represent other clubs.

The Brave Blossoms will be captained by flanker Michael Leitch and also have experienced players like 64-Test scrum-half Fumiaki Tanaka, who combines with Yu Tamura as the half-back pairing, and veteran hooker Shota Horie in their ranks.

Joseph has also handed a Test debut to the Sunwolves’ burly South Korea-born loosehead prop Ji-Won Koo.

Meanwhile, there’s plenty of pressure on Italy head coach Conor O’Shea and he expects a tough challenge from his hosts.

“Our opponents come from a positive period, they play at home, they have the habit of playing together in Super Rugby,” he said.

“We know that the next two matches that await us will be very, very demanding and every Test match represents a great challenge for us.

“We have made important steps forwards in recent years and now we have to put pressure on ourselves and translate this work into successes.

“I asked the players to focus on their individual goals and, as always, to think about the performance before the result, but we must not forget that we are here to win.”

Joseph believes the Brave Blossoms will have to be at their best in the tight exchanges, especially in first phase play, but he is confident his side will give a good account of themselves against the Azzurri and said they are raring to go.

“The set-piece will be crucial this weekend,” he told the Japan Times.

“Italy have traditionally had a strong set piece and will target us in those areas.

“We have done enough training. Now, it’s time to play the game.”

Previous results:

2014: Japan won 26-23 in Tokyo
2011: Italy won 31-24 in Cesena
2007: Italy won 36-12 in Saint Vincent Aosta
2006: Italy won 52-06 in Tokyo
2004: Italy won 32-19 in Tokyo
1976: Italy won 25-3 in Padova

The teams:

Japan: 15 Kotaru Matsushima, 14 Lomano Lemeki, 13 Will Tupou, 12 Timothy Lafaele, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Michael Leitch (c), 6 Kazuki Himeno, 5 Samuela Anise, 4 Wimpie Van Der Walt, 3 Ji-Won Koo, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki
Replacements: 16 Yusuke Niwai, 17 Shintaro Ishihara, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Uwe Helu, 20 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 21 Yutaka Nagare, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Ryoto Nakamura

Italy: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Abraham Steyn, 7 Giovanni Licata, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (c), 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Luca Bigi, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Giosuè Zilocchi, 19 George Biagi, 20 Marco Fuser, 21 Jake Polledri, 22 Tito Tebaldi, 23 Jayden Hayward

Date: Saturday, June 9
Venue: Oita Bank Dome,Oita
Kick-off: 14:45 local (05:45 GMT)
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Nick Briant (New Zealand)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)



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