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Japan name side tasked with keeping their 100 per cent win record over South Africa alive

By Online Editors
Kotaro Matsushima takes on the French defence during Japan's 23-23 draw with France in Paris in 2017. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

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Japan has named a strong squad for their pre-Rugby World Cup Test with South Africa, with coach Jamie Joseph placing the tournament hosts on notice.

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The former All Black described Friday’s assignment in Kumagaya as a “must-perform” match as the Brave Blossoms finalise preparations with their last warm-up match before the Cup opener against Russia on September 20.

After winning all three matches in the competition to clinch the Pacific Nations Cup last month, Joseph’s men are coming into the contest full of confidence but know that the Springboks, recent winners of the Rugby Championship, pose a different threat.

“South Africa is a must-perform game; we need to perform, play our type of rugby and take our challenge to them,” he said.

“It is the last game of our preparation, gives our players a real physical experience at the set-piece, at the tackle, in the lineout and in the maul.”

Japan will be without injured key forwards Shota Horie and Kazuki Himenobut Joseph believes he has selected a team that can challenge the South Africans at the set-piece and breakdown.

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Joseph saw the match as key World Cup preparation.

“You have to think about the opposition we are coming up against in the World Cup and all the four teams have strong set-piece,” said Joseph, whose team are drawn in Pool A alongside Russia, Samoa, Ireland and Scotland.

“Russia have a very strong pack, a very strong lineout. Samoa is a very strong scrum, Ireland and Scotland will target us in those areas so they (South Africa) play similar rugby to what we are expecting.”

With a physical battle expected, Uwe Helu starts at lock alongside Luke Thompson, a veteran of Japan’s famous victory over South Africa four years ago, with captain Michael Leitch joined in the back row by Pieter Labuschagne and Amanaki Mafi.

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Japan: Will Tupou, Kotaro Matsushima, Timothy Lafaele, Ryoto Nakamura, Kenki Fukuoka, Yu Tamura, Kaito Shigeno, Amana ki Mafi, Pieter Labuschagne, Michael Leitch (capt), Uwe Helu, Luke Thompson, Jiwon Koo, Atsushi Sakate, Keita Inagaki. Res: Takuya Kitade, Isileli Nakajima, Asaeli Ai Valu, James Moore, Kazuki Tokunaga, Yutaka Nagare, Rikiya Matsuda, Ataata Moeakiola.

– AAP

There’s plenty to keep you entertained in Fukuoka at night:

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