Japan change five for Maori

Date published: November 6 2014

Japan head coach Eddie Jones has made five changes to his starting XV for Saturday’s clash with the Maori All Blacks in Tokyo.

Japan coach Eddie Jones has made five changes to his starting XV for Saturday’s clash with the Maori All Blacks at a sold-out Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.

The side to play Japan’s last home game of the calendar year – albeit an unofficial test – also shows one positional switch from the team that began last week’s defeat in Kobe.

Keita Inagaki takes over from the injured Masataka Mikami at prop, with Jones saying Mikami and fly-half Yu Tamura should be fit for next week’s Test in Romania.

Shinya Makabe comes in at lock with Shioji Ito being handed a rest ahead of the European tour, while Amanaki Lelei Mafi starts ahead of Hayden Hopgood at number eight.

In the backs, Kosei Ono replaces Tamura, Karne Hesketh starts on the wing and Kotaro Matsushima moves in from the wing to outside center.

“We need to put behind the disappointment of last week (when a Japan XV lost 61-21 to the same opposition) and I would very surprised if we don’t play well Saturday and give the fans a big thank you. It’s going to be a fantastic occasion,” said Jones.

“If you look at the way the game is played by most top teams it’s quite frightening.

“The level of athleticism needed to be competitive is so high now. Mafi is 110 kg and has the fastest acceleration of any player in the team. Hesketh is a very athletic and powerful guy and we want to see if he has the potential to play test rugby.”

The side will be led by Michael Leitch and the openside flanker said Japan needed to learn from the lessons the Maori taught them last week.

“Our set piece was good and we will need to do the same this week. But we also need to play smarter and harder rugby,” he said.

Japan: 15 Ayumu Goromaru, 14 Karne Hesketh, 13 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Harumichi Tatekawa, 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 Luke Thompson, 3 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 2 Takeshi Kizu, 1 Keita Inagaki.
Replacements: 16 Yusuke Nagae, 17 Hiroki Yuhara, 18 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 19 Hitoshi Ono, 20 Hayden Hopgood , 21 Keisuke Uchida, 22 Harumichi Tatekawa, 23 Ryohei Yamanaka.

Date: Saturday, November 8
Venue: Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, Tokyo
Kickoff: 14:00 local (05:00 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce (England), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)