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University student handed Japan Test debut vs England

By Jon Newcombe
Yoshitaka Yazaki scores a try to help High School Japan beat Ireland U19 on March 22, 2023. Photo: JRFU.

Eddie Jones has selected a largely inexperienced squad for his first Test back as head coach of the Brave Blossoms, with rising star Yoshitaka Yazaki set to win his first cap at full-back against England in Tokyo on Saturday.

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The recently-turned 20-year-old started all three matches in Japan XV’s recent World Rugby Pacific Challenge-winning campaign and he played at last year’s World Rugby U20 Championship.

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An electric runner, Waseda University’s Yazaki has yet to make his first-class debut but has been earmarked for some time as one to watch.

Three other players are set to make their Test debuts as Japan attempt to beat England for the first time in five attempts at this level.

As he looks to develop his squad building up to Rugby World Cup 2027, particularly the front-row, Jones has also handed first caps to loose-head Takayoshi Mohara, hooker Mamoru Harada and openside Tiennan Costley.

Jones retains only three starting players from the 39-27 loss to Argentina at last year’s Rugby World Cup that signalled their elimination from the tournament at the end of the pool stages.

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Blindside Michael Leitch is one of the returnees and he has been named captain having led the team for the majority of Jones’ first spell in charge of the Brave Blossoms.

The 35-year-old, who has appeared at four Rugby World Cups, will captain Japan for the 37th time in his 85th having not worn the armband since Japan lost 39-31 to Ireland in July 2021.

Scrum-half Naito Saito and outside-centre, Dylan Riley, are the two other players to feature against Los Pumas in Japan’s last Test.

Replacement forwards Keijiro Tamefusa and Kai Yamamoto and backs Shinobu Fujiwara and Samisoni Tua are set to win their first caps off the bench.

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Japan team vs England: Yoshitaka Yazaki; Jone Naikabula, Dylan Riley, Tomoki Osada, Koga Nezuka; Seungsin Lee, Naoto Sato; Takayoshi Mohara, Mamoru Harada, Shuhei Takeuchi, Sanaila Waqa, Warner Dearns, Michael Leitch (capt.), Tiennan Costley, Faulua Makisi.

Replacements: Atsushi Sakate, Shogo Miura, Keijiro Tamefusa, Amanaki Saumaki, Kai Yamamoto, Shinobu Fujiwara, Rikiya Matsuda, Samisoni Tua.

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Timmyboy 23 days ago

Eddies bottled it

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Tom 58 minutes ago
All Blacks snatch another tight victory from England at Eden Park

First up to any of the ABs fans who accused us of “bluster” pre-series for saying it would be a competitive - I'm glad it turned out to be an excellent series to which the ABs were deserving winners and I hope next time a side tours you'll be a little more humble. I loved the heart shown by the English boys and how they managed to contain the AB attack for large parts of the series. Was very disappointed by the lack of cohesion and ambition ball in hand, we looked after the ball poorly and hardly went 2 phases without kicking it away. We're not giving ourselves enough opportunity to put phases together and build pressure. The ambition shown in the 6N against Ireland and France seems to have gone and our players look very hesitant with ball in hand, we look much better when Marcus is taking the ball flat and boys are running hard at the line. So frustrating when we're starting to build pressure in the 22 we go back to the grubber kick then find ourselves back on the half way line 10 seconds later. We've shown great success with our box kicking game but we need to leave the flipping grubber kick in the locker room. Like the Marcus Smith hail Mary miss pass that went straight to Mark Telea, we seem to have no patience. Sometimes we just need to recycle the ball and go again. Loving seeing Maro back to his best and Fin Baxter really impressed, Alex Mitchell looks to be one of the most complete 9s in world rugby, great around the base and impeccable kicking. Congrats to the ABs, far more dangerous and skillful than England. We contained you for large swathes but to shut down that amount of pace and skill for 80 mins is nigh on impossible. Managed to find a way to win and instinctively grabbed the rare opportunities which came your way. Finding ways to win in two tight test matches will I'm sure be a great experience for your younger players. Beauden needs to be in the starting 15, what a worldie.

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