Preview: USA v Japan

Date published: June 13 2014

Win or lose against USA this Saturday, Japan will look back at this Rugby World Cup with a great deal of pride after some superb performances.

Victory over South Africa bordered on the ridiculous as they stunned one of the tournament favourites and who is to say what may have happened against Scotland had they been fully rested. Their third game saw Samoa come off distinctly second best which kept their knock-out hopes alive.

Now Japan will pray Samoa dramatically improve their effort against Scotland on Saturday to give them hope of continuing their journey for at least another week. But as we say, the Islanders do not look in the greatest of form as Scotland go into that vital match as heavy favourites.

If Scotland do win, third place is assured for Japan and in a pool that was far from straightforward, 2019's hosts will head home fairly happy.

USA though have targeted this fixture so even if Samoa pull off a shock to leave the last-eight door open to Japan, the Brave Blossoms face a fresh Eagles line-up, with 13 players returning after missing the 64-0 defeat to South Africa on Wednesday. AJ MacGinty is a significant one.

Like Samoa, the Eagles will have been disappointed with their World Cup showing as they entered the competition on the back of successive wins over Canada before the Chicago clash with Australia. Unfortunately they kicked off with a 25-16 loss to Samoa before facing the pool big guns.

The objective now is to finish on a high note but against a Japanese side riding high after their exploits and looking to see off coach Eddie Jones with a positive result, USA could well find themselves heading back across the Atlantic with the unthinkable, a zero next to their name.

Ones to watch:

For USA: We have mentioned him already but the return to the number ten jersey of AJ MacGinty should steady the ship for USA. He is developing into an impressive fly-half and has shown he also has the calmness to kick well under pressure. Definitely one to keep an eye on.

For Japan: What a leader Michael Leitch has been for the Brave Blossoms in this Rugby World Cup campaign. He has shown all of his Super Rugby experience against the more established international opponents and is a vital cog in Japan's mobile forward machine. Still just 27.

Head-to-head: Two full-backs who haven't let their respective nations down this Rugby World Cup are Ayumu Goromaru and Chris Wyles. Goromaru has been outstanding for Japan, especially off the tee, and will have gained massive confidence from his form in England. Wyles, who has been moved around this Eagles side over the past month, gets a chance to sign off with a good shift and plenty of ball from 15.

Recent results:

2015: USA won 23-18 in Sacramento
2014: Japan won 37-29 in Carson
2013: Japan won 38-20 in Tokyo
2011: Japan won 20-14 in Tokyo
2008: Japan won 32-17 in Tokyo

Prediction: We can't see USA crashing the Brave Blossoms' RWC party. Japan by 10!

The teams:

USA: 15 Chris Wyles (c), 14 Takudzwa Ngwenya, 13 Seamus Kelly, 12 Thretton Palamo, 11 Zach Test, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Mike Petri, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Andrew Durutalo, 6 Al McFarland, 5 Greg Peterson, 4 Hayden Smith, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Zach Fenoglio, 1 Eric Fry.
Replacements: 16 Phil Thiel, 17 Oli Kilifi, 18 Chris Baumann, 19 Cam Dolan, 20 John Quill, 21 Danny Barrett, 22 Niku Kruger, 23 Folau Niua.

Japan: 15 Ayumu Goromaru, 14 Yoshikazu Fujita, 13 Harumichi Tatekawa, 12 Craig Wing, 11 Kotaro Matsushima, 10 Kosei Ono, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Ryu Koliniasi Holani, 7 Michael Broadhurst, 6 Michael Leitch (c), 5 Justin Ives, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki.
Replacements: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 19 Shinya Makabe, 20 Amanaki Lelei Mafi, 21 Hendrik Tui, 22 Atsushi Hiwasa, 23 Karne Hesketh.

Date: Sunday, October 11
Venue: Kingsholm, Gloucester
Kick-off: 20:00 local
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)