Amanaki Mafi benched for Italy clash

Date published: June 14 2018

Michael Leitch will lead a Japan side that shows just one change and one positional switch for the second Test with Italy in Kobe on Saturday.

Following last week’s 34-17 win over the Azzurri in Oita, head coach Jamie Joseph has stuck with the same 23 players. However, he has opted to shuffle his back-row with Yoshitaka Tokunaga coming in at blindside flanker, Kazuki Himeno moving to number eight and Amanaki Lelei Mafi dropping to the bench.

“We made the decision to play Tokunaga early,” said Joseph. “He has played very well for the Sunwolves and deserves a start.”

“Mafi has had a big workload for the Rebels and pretty much plays every minute of every game for them and we think we need to have a real impact in the closing stages of the game, which is why we have decided to put him on the bench.”

Wimpie van der Walt and Samuela Anise will pack down in the second-row ahead of Tokugana, Leitch and Himeno with Shota Horie, Keita Inagaki and Koo Ji Won in the front-row.

Fumiaki Tanaka and Yu Tamura showed all their experience last week and are rewared with another game, with Tamura set to win his 50th cap.

Timothy Lafaele and William Tupou will play in the centres with last week’s three other try scorers, Kotaro Matsushima, Kenki Fukuoka and Lomano Lava Lemeki, making up the back three.

Yusuke Niwai, Shintaro Ishihara and Takuma Asahara are the reserve front rowers with Uwe Helu and Mafi the two other replacement forwards.

Yutaka Nagare, Rikiya Matsuda and Ryoto Nakamura are the reserve backs.

Japan: 15 Kotaru Matsushima, 14 Lomano Lemeki, 13 Will Tupou, 12 Timothy Lafaele, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Michael Leitch (c), 6 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 5 Samuela Anise, 4 Wimpie Van Der Walt, 3 Ji-Won Koo, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki
Replacements: 16 Yusuke Niwai, 17 Shintaro Ishihara, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Uwe Helu, 20 Amanaki Mafi, 21 Yutaka Nagare, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Ryoto Nakamura

Date: Saturday, June 16
Venue: Noevir Stadium, Hyogo, Kobe
Kick-off: 14:00 local (06:00 BST, 05:00 GMT)
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Nic Berry (Australia)
Television match official: Rowan Kitt (England)