Preview: Japan v Argentina

Date published: November 4 2016

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Argentina will be looking to start their end-of-year tour with a positive result when they face Japan at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium.

Despite some impressive performances in the Rugby Championship – away to New Zealand a standout – los Pumas could only manage one victory. That came against South Africa in Round 2 so it has worryingly been four games without an international win for Daniel Hourcade's charges.

Hourcade has therefore picked his strongest available side that will once again be led by inspirational captain and hooker Agustín Creevy. One of the stars of the Rugby Championship, Facunda Isa, packs down at number eight with Martín Landajo and Nicolás Sánchez as half-backs.

They are without Pablo Matera, Juan Martín Hernández and of course their European-based players, which continues to hinder them wider out.

For Japan and their new head coach Jamie Joseph, the contest at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium is a perfect opportunity to get a new era off to a winning start, with Joseph saying he was "very proud" to read out the squad and also "excited" ahead of his first game in charge.

Shota Horie and Harumichi Tatekawa will co-captain the side which contains seven uncapped players in the starting XV and six on the bench.

Horie starts either side of debutant Satoshi Nakatani and the team's most experienced player, Kensuke Hatakeyama, who hits game number 76.

The second-row sees an all-new paring of Kyosuke Kajikawa and Samuela Anise, while 2015 Rugby World Cup star Amanaki Lelei Mafi is joined in the back-row by Uwe Helu and Yuhimaru Mimura, both of whom will be making their international debuts against a powerful Argentina pack.

Fumiaki Tanaka pairs up again with Yu Tamura as the half-backs and with Tatekawa at 12 the backs have plenty of experience and leadership. Tatekawa is partnered by centre Amanaki Lotohea, who like wing Lomano Lava Lemeki will be playing his first match for his adopted country.

"Against their big forwards we need to be smart, kick and take the ball to space," said co-captain Tatekawa in what should be an open game between two nations who have become renowned for their expansive and fast-paced style. It promises to be all-action from minute one to 80.

Players to watch:

For Japan: Making his debut on the wing will be Lomano Lava Lemeki, who has been a regular threat for Japan on the Sevens circuit. Strong, compact, fast and with a powerful fend, Auckland-born Lemeki is sure to cause the Pumas a few problems if he can get his hands on the ball. 

For Argentina: The spine of this Pumas line-up rarely doesn't turn up in Tests so the likes of Agustín Creevy, Nicolás Sánchez and Martín Landajo will be crucial. Landajo is the heartbeat of this Argentina side and if he finds holes around the fringes, he will punish Japan.

Head-to-head: The scrap between Amanaki Mafi and Facundo Isa whets the appetite ahead of this fixture. Two devastating ball carriers, Mafi shot to fame in the 2015 Rugby World Cup while Isa has grown and grown as a player this year with consistent showings. It should be superb.

Previous results:

2005: Argentina won 68-36 in Buenos Aires
1999: Argentina won 33-12 in Cardiff
1998: Japan won 44-29 in Tokyo
1993: Argentina won 45-20 in Buenos Aires
1993: Argentina won 30-27 in Tucuman

Prediction: Plenty of entertainment and tries look set to be on the cards in Tokyo. But it should be an away win. Argentina by 12.

The teams:

Japan: 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Lomano Lava Lemeki, 13 Amanaki Lotoahea, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa (cc), 11 Akihito Yamada, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Amanaki Lelei Mafi, 7 Yuhimaru Mimura, 6 Uwe Helu, 5 Samuela Anise, 4 Kyosuke Kajikawa, 3 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 2 Shota Horie (cc), 1 Satoshi Nakatani
Replacements: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Koki Yamamoto, 18 Heiichiro Ito, 19 Kotaro Yatabe, 20 Malgene Ilaua, 21 Shuhei Matsuhashi, 22 Takahiro Ogawa, 23 Timothy Lafaele

Argentina: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Matías Moroni, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Santiago Cordero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Tomás Lezana, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Lucas Noguera
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Leonardo Senatore, 20 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Ramiro Moyano

Date: Saturday, November 5
Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo
Kick-off: 14:40 local (05:40 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referees: Craig Maxwell-Keys (England), Tim Baker (Hong Kong)
TMO: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)

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