Japan: Brave Blossoms make three changes for All Blacks Test

David Skippers
Japan coach Jamie Joseph looks on during his team's warm up before a Test match against Scotland.

Japan have kept faith with most of their players who featured during the recent series against Australia ‘A’ and make just three changes to their starting XV for Saturday’s Test against New Zealand in Tokyo.

After sealing a thrilling 52-48 victory over Australia ‘A’ in the last game of the three-match series, Brave Blossoms head coach Jamie Joseph has brought in tighthead prop Jiwon Gu, openside flanker Kazuki Himeno and fly-half Takuya Yamasawa as replacements for Shinnosuke Kakinaga, Kanji Shimokawa and Seungsin Lee respectively.

It will be Gu’s first match back at Test level since Japan’s triumph over Portugal in Coimbra last November and he joins hooker and captain Atsushi Sakate and loosehead prop Keita Inagaki in the front-row.

Elsewhere, Warner Dearns packs down alongside Jack Cornelsen in the second-row, while 75-Test veteran Michael Leitch and Himeno are the starting flankers with 12-cap Tevita Tatafu continuing at number eight in a strong-looking back-row.

In backline, the experienced Yutake Nagare is the starting scrum-half with emerging playmaker Yamasawa, who is set to earn his fifth Test cap at fly-half.

Meanwhile, while the rest of the backline is the same used by the Japan XV in their last two, non-capped matches against Australia ‘A‘.

Ryoto Nakamura starts at inside centre, while Dylan Riley continues alongside him at outside centre while nine-cap Siosaia Fifita and veteran flyer Kotaro Matsushima are the starting wings, while Ryohei Yamanaka will win his 25th cap for Japan as the starting full-back.

Amongst the replacements, hooker Takeshi Hino is set to earn his sixth Test cap and he is joined by back-up props Craig Millar and Shuhei Takeuchi.

The impressive Shimokawa is set to make his Test debut cap as a back-row replacement after impressing as a starter in all three of the recent Japan XV fixtures against Australia A, while four-cap Faulua Makisi is named as a second back-row replacement.

The exciting Naoto Saito had been named as replacement scrum-half and is joined by Lee, who is the reserve fly-half, while outside back Gerhard van den Heever rounds off the matchday 23 in his fourth Test for Japan.

Japan: 15 Ryohei Yamanaka, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Dylan Riley, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Siosaia Fifita, 10 Takuya Yamasawa, 9 Yutaka Nagare, 8 Tevita Tatafu, 7 Kazuki Himeno, 6 Michael Leitch, 5 Jack Cornelsen, 4 Warner Dearns, 3 Jiwon Gu, 2 Atsushi Sakate (c), 1 Keita Inagaki
Replacements: 16 Takeshi Hino, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Shuhei Takeuchi, 19 Kanji Shimokawa, 20 Faulua Makisi, 21 Naoto Saito, 22 Seungsin Lee, 23 Gerhard van den Heever

Date: Saturday, October 29
Venue: Japan National Stadium, Tokyo
Kick-off: 14:50 local (06:50 BST, 05:50 GMT)
Referee: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)
Assistant Referees: Jordan Way (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

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