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Jamie Joseph recalls World Cup stalwart for Japan's clash against France

By AAP
(Photo by Richard Heathcote - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Japan coach Jamie Joseph has recalled World Cup stalwart Wimpie van der Walt to his second row for Saturday’s rugby test against France at Toyota Stadium as he looks to match the Six Nations champions at the set piece.

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There were six changes to the team that routed Uruguay 43-7 last weekend as halfback Naoto Saito, hooker Shota Horie and fullback Ryuji Noguchi withdrew from the squad due to being in “poor condition”, the Japan Rugby Football Union said.

South African-born winger Gerhard van den Heever keeps his starting spot after scoring a try on debut against Uruguay at the age of 33 last week.

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Hooker Atsushi Sakate will lead the team for the second time in the first of two tests against the French, while Takuya Yamasawa will again run the backline from flyhalf.

“The first thing we have to do is match their set piece, or better it,” Joseph said in a news release.

“They’re very strong in the line out and at scrum time and they play a power game. This is what France will bring to the match, and we’ve got to be able to handle that.

“Our game plan will be to keep the ball in play and attack them at every opportunity, while being mindful that we need to strike the right balance and understand that the heat is going to play a big part.”

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Japan have never beaten France but drew 23-23 with the three times World Cup finalists in Nanterre the last time they met in 2017.

Japan: 15-Ryohei Yamanaka, 14-Gerhard Van Den Heever, 13-Dylan Riley, 12-Shogo Nakano, 11-Siosaia Fifita, 10-Takuya Yamasawa, 9-Kaito Shigeno, 8-Tevita Tatafu, 7-Ben Gunter, 6-Michael Leitch, 5-Jack Cornelsen, 4-Wimpie van der Walt, 3-Asaeli Ai Valu, 2-Atsushi Sakate, 1-Keita Inagaki.

Replacements: 16-Daigo Hashimoto, 17-Yukio Morikawa, 18-Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 19-Warner Dearns, 20-Faulua Makisi, 21-Daiki Nakajima, 22-Lee Seung-Shin, 23-Taichi Takahashi.

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Jon 2 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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