WARWICK, ENGLAND – Eddie Jones sprung a surprise Friday when he named the Japan team to take on the United States on Sunday in the final Pool B game of the Rugby World Cup.
Yoshikazu Fujita, who has spent the previous three games in the stand as a spectator, will start on the right wing in a side that shows four changes and one positional switch from the XV that started last Saturday’s win over Samoa.
“I’ve got a gut feeling Fujita will play well against America,” Jones said. “He hasn’t had an opportunity in the tournament so far and I think his energy and enthusiasm can add something to the game.”
Former Australia rugby league international Craig Wing, 35, will become the oldest Japan player to debut at a World Cup when he lines up in the No. 12 jersey, after a knee injury to Male Sa’u forced Jones to change his center pairing.
Wing, who pulled out on the eve of the opening game against South Africa, will partner the man who replaced him in Brighton, Harumichi Tatekawa, who switches from 12 to 13.
The other changes are in the pack with Justin Ives coming in for the injured Hitoshi Ono in the second row and Hiroshi Yamashita starting ahead of Kensuke Hatakeyama at tighthead prop as Jones looks to use Yamashita’s bulk to wear down the Eagles before releasing the more mobile Hatakeyama to finish the game.
Jones said Wing and Tatekawa would share duties in the midfield rather than play the more traditional inside and outside center roles.