Eddie Jones’ final game in charge of the Brave Blossoms in Japan on Saturday against Uruguay is likely to be an emotional affair.
Following a difficult week for Japanese rugby, with Jones announcing he would be leaving after the World Cup, fresh doubt being poured over whether Japan can put together a Super Rugby side in 2016 and World Rugby telling local organizers they need to come up with a new roadmap for RWC 2019, Jones will be hoping his side does its talking on the field at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.
“Uruguay is our last game in Tokyo and we are very excited to play in front of our devoted fans,” Jones said Friday, four days before the team flies to England. “We really want to show them that we are moving in the right direction to create history at the World Cup.”
Anything but a good win will have the vultures out in force, jumping on Katsuyuki Kiyomiya’s bandwagon after the Yamaha Jubilo coach ripped into Jones for the timing of his announcement.
And perhaps with that in mind, the need to give playing time to the likes of Fumiaki Tanaka, Craig Wing, Male Sa’u and Hendrik Tui and give players such as Kosei Ono one last chance to impress before the 31-man squad for the World Cup is named on Monday, Jones has made a number of changes to the team that started last week’s 30-8 win over Los Teros.
“In terms of selection we’ve probably picked one of our strongest squads for this season,” Jones said. “In terms of the forward pack, we’ve got (Kensuke) Hatakeyama returning as a starting member and Luke (Thompson). They are both very important players for us.”
“In the backline, Craig Wing comes back into the side as does Kenki (Fukuoka) and those two guys are looming as important players for the World Cup as well.”
Michael Broadhurst is handed the No. 7 jersey, while towering lock Shinya Makabe starts on the bench following a long lay-off.
In the backs, Ono is named at flyhalf, having been a late withdrawal last week and Kotaro Matsushima is picked on the wing outside Wing and Sa’u.
Jones said after last week’s game put an end to a four-game losing streak that he hoped the players had regained some confidence.
However, he still thought they were holding back on attack and he will be looking for a much more fluid performance against the South Americans on Saturday.
“We want to play the game at tempo, want to move the ball around and hopefully the fans will enjoy the game,” Jones said.
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