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Japan team to face the Lions contains 10 World Cup quarter-final starters

By Liam Heagney

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Japan have chosen ten of the team that started their 2019 World Cup quarter-final versus the Springboks in their starting XV that will face the South African-bound Lions this Saturday in Edinburgh. The Japanese haven’t played a Test match since reaching the last-eight against South Africa but this 20-month gap in between international games will be offset by the level of selection continuity in the team picked by boss Jamie Joseph. 

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Five of the starting pack at Murrayfield will the same as the forwards in the team that last took the field for a competitive game in October 2019. The three changes will see hooker Atsushi Sakate, lock Wimpie van der Walt and No8 Amanaki Lelei Mafi promoted from the quarter-final bench in place of Shota Horie, Luke Thompson, Kazuki Himeno, who is listed in the replacements. Michael Leitch will skipper from blindside. 

In the backline, there are two alterations from last time out, Kaito Shigeno starting at scrum-half for Yutaka Nagare and Siosaia Fifita picked on the left wing for Kenki Fukuoka. 

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The making of England and Lions star Maro Itoje
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Japan defeated both Ireland and Scotland en route to that World Cup quarter-final and they won’t fear a Lions XV containing seven Irish players and two Scots. Lions assistant Gregor Townsend, who was in charge of Scotland at the finals, said: “It’s a lot of players who were involved at the World Cup… the spine of that team were those who were very successful in Japan.

“The midfield is the same as what we faced. A really aggressive, physical and dynamic back row. A six/two split on the bench so it is going to be a challenge for us because these are players that know their game and worked very closely together over a long period building up to that World Cup.

 

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“They will flick back into that really quickly and we realise this a huge game for them too to take on the Lions for the first time and to get another scalp like they took off a couple of teams at the World Cup will be something they will be motivated to do.  

JAPAN (vs Lions, Saturday): 1. Keita Inagaki, 2. Atsushi Sakate, 3. Jiwon Koo, 4. Wimpie van der Walt, 5. James Moore, 6. Michael Leitch (capt), 7. Pieter Labuschagne, 8. Amanaki Lelei Mafi; 9. Kaito Shigeno, 10. Yu Tamura; 11. Siosaia Fifita, 12. Ryoto Nakamura, 13. Timothy Lafaele, 14. Kotaro Matsushima, 15. Ryohei Yamanaka. Reps: 16. Horikoshi, 17. Millar, 18. Valu, 19. Cornelsen, 20. Himeno, 21. Tatafu, 22. Saito, 23. Matsuda.   

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Japan team to face the Lions contains 10 World Cup quarter-final starters

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