Hosts Japan name team for Rugby World Cup opener against Russia

Hosts Japan name team for Rugby World Cup opener against Russia

Japan head coach Jamie Joseph has named his team for the Pool A match against Russia at Tokyo Stadium on Friday, 20 September:

Blindside flanker Michael Leitch will become the second player to captain Japan at two Rugby World Cups, following in the footsteps of former no.8 Takuro Miuchi.


Leitch is one of eight survivors from Japan's matchday squad that defeated South Africa in the Brave Blossoms' Rugby World Cup opener in 2015. Like Leitch, Shota Horie and Kotaro Matsushima started then and will start now.

Fumiaki Tanaka, Luke Thompson and Hendrik Tui started then and are replacements now. Keita Inagaki and Yu Tamura were replacements then.

Star looseforward Amanaki Mafi misses the opening game after picking up a niggle against South Africa in Japan's final Rugby World Cup warm up game.

Flyhalf Yu Tamura has made more test appearances (20) for the Brave Blossoms during Jamie Joseph's tenure as Japan head coach, more than any other player and is named in the starting XV, Tamura where he will extend that number to 21.

At 38, second-rower Luke Thompson could become the oldest player to represent Japan in the competition, he is also the oldest player at RWC 2019. Should he come off the bench, Thompson will surpass Hitoshi Ono, who was 37 when he played for the Brave Blossoms four years ago.

If Thompson comes off the bench he will also become the first player to feature for Japan in four World Cups, Yukio Motoki was also part of four RWC squads but was an unused sub in 1991.

Winger Kotaro Matsushima will look to continue his superb run of form having recorded at least one try in five of his last six test appearances (six tries in total) and forms a deadily outside back combination with the likes of Lomano Lemeki and William Tupou with Kenki Fukuoka also picking up an injury against the Springboks.


Japan's team to face Russia:

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