The Japanese National Rugby Team have a tough month ahead of them. After securing their place in the Rugby World 2015, by winning the Asian 5 Nations, they now go into the test tours.

By Warren Adamson

This weekend they play against the men from Samoa and are expecting a powerhouse style of game. They play at the spiritual home of rugby in Japan, Prince Chichibunomiya Stadium on Friday night and expect a good crowd to fill the 25,000 seater stadium. They then face Canada, United States and Italy in consecutive weeks.

Head coach Eddie Jones has made some changes to the team that won the Asian 5 Nations with Shota Horie and Male Sa’u returning to the Melbourne Rebels for Super Rugby duties. He has also brought in Shinya Makabe and Hendrik Tui, a young combination to pack down in the scrums.

Jones has combined youth with the experience of Hitoshi Ono, an 81-cap veteran and soon to be record holder for most capped Japanese player, to bind up with Makabe in the lock position.

With Sa’u’s release, Jones is looking to replace the big runner with someone of equal ability in Kotaro Matsushima, “Male is our starting 13 and we need another guy that can replicate his power and pace. I’ve got a gut feeling that Kotaro could conceivably fill that role. He’s played a little there in South Africa and has power and pace and is a good low tackler so he is our best second option,” said Jones to the press.

Jones is looking to play a power game in the first part of the match and then switch to a tactical, set piece style later in the match. He’ll use the power of Makabe and Tui upfront and then allow Thompson and Ives to work around the set pieces. Jones hopes to out think the big men from Samoa and play a smarter game, “It gives us another way to play. We didn’t kick in the Asian 5 Nations, but we will need to in these games. Having Tamura at 12 gives us that option and will make us tactically harder to play against.”

The team line up for Friday is:

Masataka MIKAMI
Takeshi KIZU
Hitoshi ONO
Hendrik TUI
Michael LEITCH (Captain)
Ryu Koliniasi HOLANI
Atsushi HIWASA
Harumichi TATEKAWA
Akihito YAMADA
Yoshikazu FUJITA
Shoji ITO
Justin IVES
Keisuke UCHIDA

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