Preview: Japan v Georgia

Date published: November 21 2014

Japan take on Georgia on Sunday with a side that shows four changes and two positional switches from the team that started last week’s 18-13 win over Romania.

Japan take on Georgia on Sunday with a side that shows four changes and two positional switches from the team that started last week’s 18-13 win over Romania.

Tighthead prop Kensuke Hatakeyama will lead the side after Michael Leitch was ruled unfit to play after picking up a shoulder injury last week.

Leitch’s place at openside flanker will be taken by Hayden Hopgood with Luke Thompson returning in the engine room.

“The obvious change from last week is Leitch is out injured,” head coach Eddie Jones said on Friday.

“The other change (in the pack) sees Luke Thompson back in the second row ahead of (Shinya) Makabe who moves to the bench. We rested Luke for the Romania game so we are expecting a big performance from him.”

Hopgood lines up with Hendrik Tui and Amanaki Lelei Mafi in the back row, with Thompson and Shoji Ito at lock and Hatakeyama, Masataka Mikami and Takeshi Kizu in the front row.

Yu Tamura has recovered from the knock he picked up during the non-test against the Maori All Blacks on November 1 and is back in the starting XV at fly-half with Harumichi Tatekawa also earning a recall to the run-on team.

“In the backs Tamura is back to full fitness so he takes over the 10 spot from Kosei (Ono), who played exceptionally well last week,” said Jones.

“Haru has now come back into form so we’ve elevated him to a starting position at 12 with Male (Sa’u) out to 13 and (Kotaro) Matsushima to the right wing, which unfortunately means (Akihito) Yamada misses out on this game.”

Karne Hesketh keeps his place on the left wing, Ayumu Goromaru will win his 43rd cap at fullback, while Atsushi Hiwasa will be winning his 38th at scrumhalf as Japan look to extend their test-match winning streak to 12 and finish off the calendar year unbeaten.

Joining Makabe on the bench are front row replacements Keita Inagaki, Hiroki Yuhara and Shinnosuke Kakinaga.

The growing list of injuries means Makabe and Hitoshi Ono will cover the second and back row, while the replacement backs are Yuki Yatomi, Kosei Ono and Toshiaki Hirose.

Meanwhile, there are a handful of the changes to the Georgia side that lost to Ireland last week.

Lock Dimitri Basilaia will not play due to the injury. Same with Lasha Malaghuradze, who suffered a concussion in Dublin last week.

Vazha Khutsishvili will start the match as a scrum-half. Full-back Beka Tsiklauri, who has not featured in the squad in the Lelos’ previous two Tests will be amongst ther reserves. Sunday’s match will also feature Giorgi Aptsiauri, who will have a chance to win his first international cap.

Previous results:
2102: Japan won 25-22 in Tbilisi
2006: Japan won 32-7 in Osaka

The teams:

Georgia: 15 Merab Kvirikashvili, 14 Tamaz Mtchedlidze, 13 David Kacharava (C), 12 Merab Sharikadze, 11 Sandro Todua, 10 Lasha Khmaladze 9 Vazha Khutsishvili, 8 Lasha Lomidze, 7 Vito Kolelishvili, 6 Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, 5 Levan Datunashvili, 4 Giorgi Nemsadze, 3 David Kubriashvili, 2 Shalva Mamukashvili, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Replacements: 16 Simon Maisuradze, 17 Zurab Zhvania, 18 Levan Chilachava, 19 Kote Mikautadze, 20 Giorgi Chkhaidze, 21 Giorgi Begadze, 22 Beka Tsiklauri, 23 Giorgi Aptsiauri

Japan: 15 Ayumu Goromaru, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Male Sau, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Karne Hesketh, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Atsushi Hiwasa, 8 Amanaki Lelei Mafi, 7 Hayden Hopgood, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Shoji Ito, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 2 Takeshi Kizu, 1 Masataka Mikami.
Replacements: 16 Keita Inagaki, 17 Hiroki Yuhara, 18 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 19 Hitoshi Ono, 20 Shinya Makabe, 21 Yuki Yatomi, 22 Kosei Ono, 23 Toshiaki Hirose.

Date: Sunday, November 23
Venue: Mikheil Meshki Stadium, Tbilisi
Kick-off: 17:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)