Japan team named to face the British and Irish Lions

Japan Lions

Japan head coach Jamie Joseph has named his team to take on the British and Irish Lions for the first time ever in Edinburgh on Saturday.

Saturday’s game against the Lions will be the first time Japan have played against international opposition since the 2019 Rugby World Cup, where they bowed out against the Springboks in the quarter-finals.

Joseph has gone with a largely familiar Japan side, with 10 of the players who started in the Brave Blossoms’ last test match against South Africa in 2019 selected to start against the best of Britain and Ireland.

Tongan-born winger Siosaia Fifita will win his first cap for Japan at the age of 22, while New Zealand-born prop Craig Miller and Australian-born flanker Jack Cornelsen could also win their first caps off the bench.

Long-time captain Michael Leitch will start as blindside flanker, in what will be his 69th cap for Japan since he made his debut back in 2008.

Two overseas players – Clermont Auvergene’s Kotaro Matsushima and the Highlanders’ Kazuki Himeno – have both been named in the match-day squad.

Injury-enforced changes for the Lions.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland has been forced to make two changes to the team he announced on Tuesday, as Scottish duo Hamish Watson and Zander Fagerson have both pulled out due to injury.

Watson was removed from the starting team and replaced by Wales flanker Justin Tipuric on Wednesday, after the Edinburgh man suffered a concussion in training.  Watson will follow the graduated return-to-play protocols.

Fagerson has been ruled out of the Japan game with a back spasm, although Gatland said that the Glasgow Warriors prop would get a chance to start in one of the Lions’ next two games in South Africa.

Ireland prop Tadhg Furlong has been promoted to the starting team to replace Fagerson, while England’s Kyle Sinckler has been drafted in as a replacement for the game in Edinburgh.

Check out the Japan team to face the British and Irish Lions below.

15. Ryohei Yamanaka
14. Kotaro Matsushima
13. Timothy Lafaele
12. Ryoto Nakamura
11. Siosaia Fifita
10. Yu Tamura
9. Kaito Shigeno
8. Amanaki Mafi
7. Lappies Labuschagné
6. Michael Leitch (captain)
5. James Moore
4. Wimpie van der Walt
3. Jiwon Koo
2. Atsushi Sakate
1. Keita Inagaki


16. Kosuke Horikoshi
17. Craig Millar
18. Asaeli Ai Valu
19. Jack Cornelson
20. Kazuki Himeno
21. Tevita Tatafu
22. Naoto Saito
23. Rikiya Matsuda.

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