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Tighthead prop Koo Ji-won set to earn first cap for Japan against Tonga

Kyodo

Japan heads into Saturday’s game with Tonga at Stade Ernest Wallon with a side that shows five changes and two positional switches from the team that started the 63-30 defeat to the Wallabies on Nov. 4.

Tighthead prop Koo Ji-won is set to make his international debut in a team led by Michael Leitch, who moves from blindside to openside flanker.

Leitch’s move is to accommodate Kazuki Himeno, who shifts from lock to the back row following an impressive first game in national colors.

Amanaki Lelei Mafi retains his place at No. 8 as do loosehead prop Keita Inagaki and hooker Shota Horie.

However, there is a brand new second-row pairing with Shinya Makabe and Wimpie van der Walt replacing Uwe Helu (broken arm) and Himeno.

In the backs, Yu Tamura returns to run operations at flyhalf, outside of veteran scrumhalf Fumiaki Tanaka.

Kenki Fukuoka, who missed the Australia game as the result of flu, returns on the wing in place of Ryuji Noguchi, who has had to stay in Japan in order to take some exams at Tokai University.

Elsewhere, the backs are unchanged with Harumichi Tatekawa and Timothy Lafaele in the centers, Lomano Lava Lemeki on the right wing and Kotaro Matsushima at fullback.

Atsushi Sakate and props Asaeli Ai Valu and Shintaro Ishihara are named as the backup, front-row forwards, with Shunsuke Nunomaki and Fetuani Lautaimi the two other reserve forwards.

Yutaka Nagare, Sione Teaupa and Yoshikazu Fujita are the replacement backs.

Japan and Tonga have played each other 16 times, with the Brave Blossoms winning seven.

The ‘Ikale Tahi, coached by former Kubota Spears and Australia favorite Toutai Kefu, are on a four-game winning streak against Japan, their last victory a 31-20 win in Vancouver in August 2015.