Planet Rugby

Preview: Japan v Italy

20th June 2014 09:11


Fumiaki Tanaka japan Scrum half

Key threat: Fumiaki Tanaka

Japan will be looking to extend their record unbeaten run to 10 games when they host Italy at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo on Saturday.

The Brave Blossoms' are on a high after their recent run of victories - against Russia, Spain, Philippines, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Hong Kong, Samoa, Canada and the USA.

The Azzurri, by contrast, are yet to win a match in 2014 and are currently on an eight-match losing streak. But despite those statistics Jones and his charges expect a tough encounter against opponents who Japan are yet to beat in an international fixture,

"This is the toughest game of the year for us," Jones said.

"It's a real privilege to play Italy, who are a Six Nations country. Japan's record in not impressive against them We have played them five times and lost five so this is a fantastic opportunity to once again change Japanese rugby history."

"Games against any Six Nations side are all about controlling the set piece," said Jones.

"Our preparation has revolved around that and I believe if we get the set right then there will be opportunities to trouble the Italian defence."

Japan's form during their winning run have been sensational, especially in recent matches where they were registered valuable triumphs in the Pacific Nations Cup.

Two weeks ago, they trailed Canada 25-9 at half-time before scoring 25 unanswered points after the break to claim a 34-25 victory. And last weekend, they were deadlcoked at 17-17 with the USA before pulling away from their hosts in the second half before securing a 37-29 win.

Jones deserves plenty of credit for his side's superb form but despite his expertise, he has also added former Saracens and England second row Steve Borthwick to his coaching staff as the forwards coach.

Italy are desperate for a win as their tour has been disastrous so far. Two weeks ago they lost 25-14 to Fiji in Suva before suffering a humiliating 15-0 loss to Samoa in Apia last weekend.

Their strength lies in their forwards and that's where they will attack Japan. Coach Jacques Brunel has once again kept faith with the Treviso front row of Lorenzo Cittadini, Leonardo Ghiraldini and Alberto De Marchi, who are one of the strongest scrummaging units in the game.

Brunel has changed his team selection from week to week, especially at fly-half where Luciano Orquera returns to the run-on side at the expense of Tommaso Allan.

With Italy still to win a Test in 2014, the Azzurri's captain Quintin Geldenhuys knows the importance of this clash.

"We come from a series of defeats," he told the Italian Rugby Union's official website/

"It's been difficult during a long season, but we know how important it is to finish the tour with a win so that we can enter the coming season with confidence."

On the game itself Geldenhuys said the two teams' expansive styles should make for an entertaining spectacle.

"The pitch is very,fast here at Chichibu Stadium and I'm sure this will help the two teams to play the game at a quick pace," he explained.

"It is an aspect we changed under (coach) Brunel. Before we were a team that played mostly with our pack.

We might risk a bit more now by keeping the ball alive and play quickly whenever possible."

Players to watch:

For Japan: Scrum-half Fumiaki Tanaka might be small in stature but he has made a big contribution during his side's recent run of victories. The Highlanders number nine's sniping breaks around the fringes of rucks and mauls is sure to keep the Azzuri defenders on their toes and another strength is his ability to bring his forwards into the game. He also links well with his backline

For Italy: The Azzurri are under pressure and the decision-making of their captain Quintin Geldenhuys will be crucial if they want to end their tour with a win.

Head to Head: Both sides enjoy playing expansively and possess potent attacking weapons, particularly amongst the backs. The midfield battle will be crucial and Japan's Male Sa'u and Italy's Michele Campagnaro are both brilliant attackers, who can change the course of a game with a moment of brilliance.

Previous Results:
2011: Italy won 31-24, Cesena
2007: Italy won 36-12, Saint Vincent Aosta
2006: Italy won 52-6, Tokyo
2004: Italy won 32-19, Tokyo
1976: Italy won 25-3, Padova

Prediction: Italy have their backs to the wall while the hosts have their tails up in their own backyard. That homeground advantage swings things in the hosts' favour. Japan will win by five points!

The teams:

Japan: 15 Ayumu Goromaru, 14 Akihito Yamada, 13 Male Sa'u, 12 Yu Tamura, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Harumichi Tatekawa, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Ryu Koliniasi Holani, 7 Michael Leitch, 6 Justin Ives, 5 Luke Thompson, 4 Shoji Ito, 3 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Masataka Mikami.
Replacements: 16 Hisateru Hirashima, 17 Takeshi Kizu, 18 Hiroshi Yamashita, 19 Shinya Makabe, 20 Hitoshi Ono, 21 Hendrik Tui, 22 Atsushi Hiwasa, 23 Toshiaki Hirosi.

Italy: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Andrea Masi, 11 Giovambattista Venditti, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Joshua Furno, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys (coffee), 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Alberto De Marchi.
Replacements: tbc

Date: Saturday, June 21
Kick-off: 14:00 local (06:00 BST, 05:00 GMT)
Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Television match official: Peter Marshall (Australia)
Assessor: Andrew Cole (Australia)

Forthcoming Fixtures
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester vs ExeterGloucester vs Exeter Preview
Saturday , September 20
Sale vs London Welsh14:00
London Irish vs Saracens15:00
Harlequins vs Wasps15:00
Bath vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle vs Northampton14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 19
Munster vs ZebreMunster vs Zebre Preview
Cardiff Blues vs UlsterCardiff Blues vs Ulster Preview
Connacht vs LeinsterConnacht vs Leinster Preview
Saturday , September 20
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Glasgow14:40
Scarlets vs Benetton Treviso18:00
Sunday , September 21
Ospreys vs EdinburghOspreys vs Edinburgh Preview
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 19
Brive vs ToulonBrive vs Toulon Preview
Saturday , September 20
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulouse14:45
La Rochelle vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Clermont Auvergne vs Lyon18:30
Castres vs Oyonnax18:30
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:30
Montpellier vs Stade Francais20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 19
Lions vs PumasLions vs Pumas Preview
Saturday , September 20
Western Province vs Griquas15:00
Blue Bulls vs Sharks17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
Friday , September 19
Counties Manukau vs CanterburyCounties Manukau vs Canterbury Preview
Saturday , September 20
Hawkes Bay vs Bay Of Plenty14:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
All times are local
Thursday , September 18
Northland 20 - 31 TaranakiNorthland vs Taranaki Report
Wednesday, September 17
Southland 14 - 38 TasmanSouthland vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 14
Wasps 20 - 16 NorthamptonWasps vs Northampton Report
Newcastle 18 - 20 London IrishNewcastle vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Cardiff Blues 12 - 33 GlasgowCardiff Blues vs Glasgow Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 27 - 21 MontpellierBordeaux-Begles vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
Waikato 26 - 21 Counties ManukauWaikato vs Counties Manukau Report
Hawkes Bay 41 - 0 Otago
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 13
Gloucester 34 - 27 Sale SharksGloucester vs Sale Sharks Report
Bath 53 - 26 London WelshBath vs London Welsh Report
Exeter 20 - 24 LeicesterExeter vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
New Zealand 14 - 10 South AfricaNew Zealand vs South Africa Report
Australia 32 - 25 ArgentinaAustralia vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 42 - 12 ScarletsLeinster vs Scarlets Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulouse 9 - 13 Clermont AuvergneToulouse vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bayonne 23 - 6 Brive
Oyonnax 40 - 27 Grenoble
Toulon 24 - 28 Stade FrancaisToulon vs Stade Francais Report
Racing Metro Paris 28 - 11 LyonRacing Metro Paris vs Lyon Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 31 - 27 PumasGriquas vs Pumas Report
Lions 35 - 33 Western ProvinceLions vs Western Province Report
Cheetahs 30 - 30 SharksCheetahs vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
Bay Of Plenty 12 - 27 AucklandBay Of Plenty vs Auckland Report
Southland 36 - 34 Northland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 12
Harlequins 0 - 39 SaracensHarlequins vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Aviva Premiership Table
3Leicester Tigers29