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Japan World Cup star Kotaro Matsushima returns for Ireland showdown

By Tom Vinicombe
Kotaru Matsushima (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

Having been unavailable for selection in the squad to play against the Wallabies in Oita, Kotaro Matsushima has been quickly recalled to Japan’s line-up for this weekend’s game with Ireland.


Matsushima, who scored five tries for the Brave Blossoms at the 2019 Rugby World Cup – including a hat-trick in the opening match of the tournament – will line up at fullback as one of just three changes to the starting XV from Japan’s most recent hit-out with Australia.

All three adjustments come in the backline, with experienced playmaker Yu Tamura taking over from Rikiya Matsuda at No 10 and recent debutant Dylan Riley slotting onto the right wing in favour of Lomano Lemeki.

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The panel of Ross Karl, Bryn Hall and James Parsons run their eyes over all the developments from the past week of rugby.

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The panel of Ross Karl, Bryn Hall and James Parsons run their eyes over all the developments from the past week of rugby.

The starting forward pack is unchanged from the loss to the Wallabies but there are a few movements on the bench.

Former captain Michael Leitch remains unavailable after he was a late scratching from the game in Oita. As such, Yoshitaka Tokunaga will again cover the back row from the reserves.

With Tamura coming into the starting line-up, Matsuda will wear jersey No 21 while Riley’s spot on the bench is filled by 33-year-old Ryohei Yamanaka.

Outside backs Lemeki and Semisi Masirewa have missed out on selection entirely.


Pieter Labuschagne will again captain the side from the openside flanker role.

While the Brave Blossoms were able to pull off a historic victory over Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, their last encounter in July ended in defeat, despite Ireland playing without their British and Irish Lions.

Japan were in control of the match at various stages and held the lead early in the second half but eventually succumbed 39-31.

While the Ireland side named today has a handful of changes to the winning line-up from earlier this year, Japan coach Jamie Joseph has largely kept faith in the team that came close to securing a first-ever victory in Dublin. Injured forwards Leitch and Wimpie van der Walt are both unavailable for this weekend while Masirewa is the sole starting back from that team who won’t feature on Saturday.

Japan: Kotaro Matsushima, Dylan Riley, Timothy Lafaele, Ryoto Nakamura, Siosaia Fifita, Yu Tamura, Yutaka Nagare, Kazuki Himeno, Pieter Labuschagne (c), Ben Gunter, James Moore, Jack Cornelsen, Koo Ji-won, Atsushi Sakate, Keita Inagaki. Reserves: Yusuke Niwai, Craig Millar, Asaeli Ai Valu, Yoshitaka Tokunaga, Tevita Tatafu, Naoto Saito, Yu Tamura, Ryohei Yamanaka.


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