Preview: Romania v Japan

Date published: November 13 2014

Japan face Romania on Saturday unbeaten in 10 games, a streak that has seen them rise to ninth in the world rankings.

Japan coach Eddie Jones has named his strongest possible side for Saturday’s Test against Romania in Bucharest.

Japan head into the games against Romania and Georgia unbeaten in 10 tests, a streak that has seen them rise to an all time high of ninth in the world rankings.

Masataka Mikami and Shoji Ito are the only changes from the Japan XV that started last week’s narrow loss to the Maori All Blacks in Tokyo, while three players who were not involved in the non-cap internationals are added to the bench.

Mikami replaces Keita Inagaki, who will win his first cap if he comes off the bench, while Ito comes in for Luke Thompson, who is being rested ahead of the test against Georgia on Nov. 23.

In addition to Inagaki, there are two new caps in the starting XV in Amanaki Lelei Mafi and Karne Hesketh, both of whom impressed against the Maori.

“We have selected our strongest available team and are expecting a very physical game,” said Jones.

Mikami lines up with Takeshi Kizu and Kensuke Hatakeyama in the front row, with Ito and Shinya Makabe in the engine room.

Mafi forms an athletic and physical back row alongside captain Michael Leitch and Hendrik Tui.

With Yu Tamura still not fully recovered from the knock he took in the first game against the Maori, Jones has opted to play the same backs that started last week’s game.

“Tamura is still not 100 percent so Kosei retains his place at 10 and the rest of the backline, which performed performed very well against the Maoris, is the same.”

On the bench, Yuki Yatomi is brought back to the international fold for the first time since 2009. He joins Hiroshi Yamashita and Toshiaki Hirose, who both sat out the games against the Maori. Inagaki, Hiroki Yuhara, Hitoshi Ono, Hayden Hopgood and Harumichi Tatekawa make up the rest of the replacements.

“We are looking forward to playing some good high tempo rugby with a strong set piece,” said Jones.

Meanwhile, Romania coach Lynn Howells has made several changes to the team that lost to the United States last week.

Florin Vlaicu returns top the fly-half berth from inside centre, taking the place of Dorin Manole, who moves to the right wing. Ionut Botezatu comes into the starting XV on the left wing while Robert Dascalu takes over at 12.

Up front, there is an all-new front row as Paulica Ion, Andrei Radoi and Andrei Ursache all start. Valentin Popirlan replaces Alin Coste in the second row.

Previous results:

2012: Japan won 34-23 in Bucharest
2005: Japan won 23-16 in Tokyo
2004: Romania won 25-10 in Bucharest
1995: Japan won 34-21 in Tokyo
1995: Romania won 30-25 in Tokyo

The teams:

Romania: 15 Catalin Fercu 14 Dorin Manole, 13 Csaba Gal, 12 Robert Dascalu, 11 Ionut Botezatu, 10 Florin Vlaicu, 9 Valentin Calafeteanu, 8 Daniel Carpo, 7 Mihai Macovei, 6 Ovidiu Tonita 5 Valentin Popirlan, 4 Marius Serbs, 3 Paulica Ion, 2 Andrei Radoi, 1 Andrei Ursache,
Replacements:16 Otar Turashvili, 17 Mihaita Lazar, 18 Horace bags, 19 Alin Coste, 20 Stelian Burca, Grigoras 21 Diaconescu, 22 Florin Ionita, 23 Robert Neagu

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

Date: Saturday, November 15
Venue: Stadionul National Arcul de Triumf, Bucharest
Kick-off: 16:00 local (14.00 GMT)
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)