Japan coach Eddie Jones was true to his word Friday, raising a few eyebrows with his squad for Saturday’s World Cup warmup test against Georgia at Kingsholm Stadium in Gloucester, England.
Following last week’s win over Uruguay in Tokyo, Jones said he thought Japan needed an extra forward to help combat the more physical teams in world rugby.
“Don’t be surprised if I name nine forwards or we create a new position,” he joked.
While he has not gone as far as rewriting the laws of rugby, Jones on Friday named back-row forward Hendrik Tui on the wing for the match against the physical Georgians, Japan’s last game before its Rugby World Cup campaign begins on Sept. 19 against South Africa’s Springboks.
The move gives Japan an extra line breaker, hands Tui some much-needed playing time and should also bolster the defense out wide, as the Brave Blossoms look to avenge last year’s 35-24 loss to the Lelos in Tbilisi that ended an 11-game winning streak.
“Georgia’s forwards are big and that’s where they’ll try to beat you, which is what South Africa do,” Japan captain Michael Leitch said. “Me personally, I’m getting fitter and fitter so I hope I can perform well.”
In addition to moving Tui from No. 8 to wing, Jones made four other changes to the side that started last week’s 40-0 win over Los Teros.
Hiroshi Yamashita comes in at tighthead prop, Ryu Koliniasi Holani takes over at No. 8, Harumichi Tatekawa is handed the No. 10 jersey and Yoshikazu Fujita returns on the other wing.
“It is my first time to face Georgia,” said Fujita. “They are a physical side. But it’s just before the World Cup so I hope we can show what we have been doing in training and take something from the game to the World Cup.”
On the bench, Shinya Makabe and Amanaki Lelei Mafi both continue their return from injury while Takayuki Watanabe, who did not make the Rugby World Cup squad, fills in for Keita Inagaki as he continues his rehabilitation.