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Labuschagne To Captain Japan Against Ireland

Labuschagne To Captain Japan Against Ireland

Back rower Pieter Labuschagne breaks clear to score Japan's third try against Russia on the opening night of the Rugby World Cup ©INPHO/Craig Mercer

Japan head coach Jamie Joseph has selected his team to take on Ireland, making four personnel changes to the side that opened the Rugby World Cup with a 30-10 bonus point win over Russia.

For the Shizuoka showdown this Saturday (kick-off 4.15pm local time/8.15am Irish time), back rower Pierre ‘Lappies’ Labuschagne will captain the Brave Blossoms for only the second time in five Test appearances. He takes the captaincy reins from the benched Michael Leitch.

38-year-old lock Luke Thompson, the oldest player at this year’s Rugby World Cup, is promoted to Japan’s starting XV along with fellow forwards Jiwon Koo and Amanaki Lelei Mafi, and there is also a start at full-back for Ryohei Yamanaka.

William Tupou will play on the wing for the first time at Test level and Kazuki Himeno moves to the blindside flanker berth vacated by Leitch. The South African-born Labuschagne ran in a try in the Pool A opener against Russia, with tricky winger Kotaro Matsushima weighing in with a hat-trick.

Japan and Ireland have played each other on seven previous occasions, with the men in green holding a 100% record. Their two most recent victories came during the 2017 summer tour when Joe Schmidt’s charges won 50-22 in Shizuoka and 35-13 in Tokyo.

Joseph commented: “Our players will need to play the best game of their lives – that’s what they’ll need to be successful on Saturday. If we’re going to be successful and achieve our goals, we are going to need to have impact and experience (like Leitch) on the bench.

“We’re playing probably the most experienced back-three in world rugby. Ireland consistently create lots of pressure from their kicking game and we just need a bigger man on the wing.”

Speaking about captaining the home side, Labuschagne said: “It’s a massive privilege and honour to be selected as captain. We set out our goals before the tournament started and they haven’t changed. Leitchy has still got a big role to play. It’s just for the part on the field that I’m taking over.

“The whole group has been working together for this week. We’re on track and we’re really excited about this game against Ireland. They can keep the ball for lots of phases. They’re well drilled and know each other well. Our focus on breakdown from the past couple of months won’t change.”

JAPAN Team & Replacements (v Ireland, 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A, Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, Saturday, September 28, kick-off 4.15pm local time/8.15am Irish time):

Player/Club/Caps –

15. Ryohei Yamanaka (Kobelco Steelers) 14
14. Kotaro Matsushima (Suntory Sungoliath) 35
13. Timothy Lafaele (Kubota Spears) 19
12. Ryoto Nakamura (Suntory Sungoliath) 20
11. William Tupou (Coca-Cola Red Sparks) 11
10. Yu Tamura (Canon Eagles) 59
9. Yutaka Nagare (Suntory Sungoliath) 20
1. Keita Inagaki (Panasonic Wild Knights) 30
2. Shota Horie (Panasonic Wild Knights) 62
3. Jiwon Koo (Honda Heat) 9
4. Luke Thompson (Kintetsu Liners) 68
5. James Moore (Munakata Sanix Blues) 4
6. Kazuki Himeno (Toyota Verblitz) 13
7. Pieter Labuschagne (Kubota Spears) (capt) 4
8. Amanaki Lelei Mafi (NTT Communications Shining Arcs) 25


16. Atsushi Sakate (Panasonic Wild Knights) 18
17. Isileli Nakajima (Kobelco Steelers) 4
18. Asaeli Ai Valu (Panasonic Wild Knights) 10
19. Wimpie van der Walt (NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes) 13
20. Michael Leitch (Toshiba Brave Lupus) 64
21. Fumiaki Tanaka (Canon Eagles) 71
22. Rikiya Matsuda (Panasonic Wild Knights) 21
23. Lomano Lava Lemeki (Honda Heat) 12