Harumichi Tatekawa has recovered from injury and will lead Japan against Hong Kong in Round 3 of the Asia Rugby Championship, the Japan Rugby Football Union announced Wednesday.
With a number of national team players having made the trip to Argentina to bolster the injury-depleted Sunwolves, head coach Jamie Joseph’s run-on XV for Saturday’s game at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo shows seven changes and two positional switches from the team that started last weekend’s 80-10 win over South Korea.
Tatekawa returns from a knee injury to skipper the side from inside center, with hooker Shota Horie, his fellow national co-captain from last season, starting the game on the bench, having taken the last few weeks off to rest.
A third member of the 2015 Rugby World Cup squad, Akihito Yamada, switches from the left wing to the right.
There is one new cap in the team in Kanta Shikao, who partners Tatekawa in midfield.
The pack sees three changes with Yu Chinen, who entered the game earlier than expected against South Korea following a serious injury to Genki Sudo, starting at tighthead prop alongside Shintaro Ishihara and Atsushi Sakate.
Samuela Anise gets a new partner in the second row in Naohiro Kotaki, while the impressive Malgene Ilaua and Shuhei Matsuhashi are joined by Shokei Kin in the back row.
There is an all-new halfback pairing with Kaito Shigeno starting in the No. 9 jersey and Rikiya Matsuda moving from inside center to flyhalf.
Yamada’s shift allows Seiya Ozaki to start on the left wing and Ryuji Noguchi keeps his place at fullback.
Horie is joined on the bench by props Shogo Miura and Takayuki Watanabe, with Kotaro Yatabe, Yoshitaka Tokunaga and Naoki Ozawa the three other replacement forwards as Joseph opts for a 6-2 split.
Yutaka Nagare, who led Japan in the first two rounds of the ARC, and Takuya Yamasawa are the two replacement backs.