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Jamie George: 'Tough day' planned for Japan rookie Yoshitaka Yazaki 

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 24: Jamie George, the England captain looks dejected during their defeat during the Guinness Six Nations 2024 match between Scotland and England at BT Murrayfield Stadium on February 24, 2024 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

England captain Jamie George talked up his country’s credentials as they prepare to open their summer series against Eddie Jones’ Japan at the National Stadium in Tokyo on Saturday.

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Saracens hooker George, 33, who has 90 caps for his country, will lead his team into battle in an eagerly-awaited clash which will air live and free in the UK and Ireland on RugbyPass.TV

Former England head coach Jones, who takes charge of Japan for the first time in his second stint in the job, is no stranger to making bold selections and has followed through on his promise of giving young players as he builds towards Rugby World Cup 2027.

Jones has selected highly-rated 20-year-old Waseda University student Yoshitaka Yazaki to make his senior debut at full-back.

Yazaki, who lives in a dormitory with 150 fellow students, caught the eye of the two-time Wallabies head coach after scoring two tries for Japan XV (a predominantly U20-based development team) against the Fiji Warriors at the World Rugby Pacific Challenge in April.

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Yazaki, whose pace and footwork has earned him comparisons to Japan’s long-time leading full-back Kotaro Matsushima, also emerged from the talent-laden Toin Gakuen High School in Kanagawa, like Matsushima.

When asked about the boldness of Jones picking second-year student Yazaki, George said he was not surprised.

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“I’m not surprised by that because Eddie has always been someone who makes bold statements, Eddie wouldn’t have made the decision without confidence in what kind of game he wants to play,” the Saracens player said.

As for any plans to target the exciting but inexperienced rising star of Japanese rugby, George didn’t hold back, insisting the recently-turned 20-year-old would have it all to do in his Brave Blossoms debut.

“I think he’s in for a tough day, I don’t think there’s a full-back in the world who’ll want to play against us in terms of the athletes that compete against us in the air.”

Jones said on Thursday that he picked Yazaki because he’s a great rugby student and has great future with Japanese Rugby. The Australian believes Yazaki has the maturity to handle the occasion on Saturday.

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Yazaki has yet to appear in Japan’s top-flight, League One, but George said the competition has been heavily discussed amongst his squad.

“We watched the League One final and looked at Toshiba to get a better idea of the individuals Japan would select.

“We’ve looked at the teams who got to the final to learn about their style of play and we’ve picked out (hooker Mamoru) Harada, who is a really good player, we think he’s been picked for his scrummaging ability.”

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