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RWC Pool A Preview – Japan vs Ireland

SHIZUOKA, 26 Sep – Amanaki Mafi makes his first appearance for Japan at number eight after missing the opener against Russia for his side’s second game against Ireland on Saturday.

Coach Jamie Joseph has captain and flanker Michael Leitch on the bench and Pieter Labuschagne will lead the side.

“If we’re going to be successful and achieve our goals we are going to need to have impact and experience on the bench,” Joseph said. “The players will need to play the best game of their lives, that’s what they’ll need to be successful on Saturday.”

Labuschagne, who ran half the length of the pitch for his team’s third try against Russia in the opener, is ready to carry the burden on the day.

“It’s a massive privilege and honour to be selected as captain,” he said. “Leitchy has still got a big role to play. It’s just for the part on the field that I’m taking over. We’re on track and we’re really excited about this game against Ireland.”

Prop Jiwon Koo, second-row Luke Thompson and full-back Ryohei Yamanaka make their first starts after coming off the bench in the victory against Russia. Kazuki Himeno moves from number eight to flanker, and William Tupou from full-back to winger.

“Himeno has been a player in form, a ball carrier. Lots of our players try to do the same thing but with his size and power he proves very effective,” said Joseph. “We’re playing against probably the most experienced back three in world rugby. Ireland consistently create lots of pressure from their kicking game and we just need a bigger man (Tupou) on the wing.”

Tupou made an early catching howler that led to Russia’s opening try last Friday, and is eager to make amends, albeit playing in a less familiar position.

“Last year at the Sunwolves I had opportunities to play on the wing against the Rebels and Sharks as well,” he said. “I hadn’t been preparing for it, but I had the opportunity of trying to catch high balls and spot the opportunity out wide.”

Prop Asaeli Ai Valu, second-row Wimpie van der Walt and wing Lomano Lemeki all drop to the bench alongside Leitch, while flanker Hendrik Tui has been left out.

Winger Kenki Fukuoka, who hurt his right calf in a warm-up game against South Africa on 6 September, remains an absentee.

RR WORLD RANKINGS – During World Cup the RR Ranking Points are DOUBLED

JAP (on 76.70 points) at home -vs- IRE (on 89.93 points) in a RWC match

Possible Outcome Rating Point
Will JAP
overtake IRE?
If JAP win by 1-15 points 4.000 80.70 85.93 No
If JAP win by more than 15 6.000 82.70 83.93 No
If result is a draw 2.000 78.70 87.93 No
If IRE win by 1-15 points 0.000 76.70 89.93 No
If IRE win by more than 15 0.000 76.70 89.93 No


1 Keita Inagaki, 2 Shota Horie, 3 Ji-Won Koo, 4 Luke Thompson, 5 James Moore, 6 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Lappies Labuschagne (capt.), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 9 Yutaka Nagare, 10 Yu Tamura, 11 Will Tupou, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 15 Ryohei Yamanaka

Replacements: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Isileli Nakajima, 18 Asaeli Valu, 19 Wimpie van der Walt, 20 Michael Leitch, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Lomani Lemeki

1 Cian Healy, 2 Rory Best (capt.), 3 Tadhg Furlong, 4 Iain Henderson, 5 James Ryan, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 7 Josh van der Flier, 8 CJ Stander, 9 Conor Murray, 10 Jack Carty, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 12 Chris Farrell, 13 Garry Ringrose, 14 Keith Earls, 15 Rob Kearney

Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 David Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Jordan Larmour

Date: Saturday, September 28
Kick-Off: 16:15 pm local
Venue: Stadium Ecopa, Shizuoka
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Jerome Garces (France), Matthew Carley (England)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

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