• Kyodo

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Japan will play a pair of test matches against Italy and a single test against Georgia on home soil in June next year, the Japan Rugby Football Union announced Wednesday.

The tests, taking place one year out from Japan hosting the Rugby World Cup 2019, are an important opportunity to energize public interest in the showcase event, Brave Blossoms coach Jamie Joseph said.

“The June test matches are in front of our own fans, so playing a brand of rugby that shows the winning desire of the team is crucial,” Joseph said.

Italy and Georgia will pose “huge challenges for the team at home,” he said, adding, “We need all our fans there to support us.”

Japan, 11th in the world rankings, has played 14th-ranked Italy six times, starting with its inaugural test in 1976, with the only victory coming in the most recent encounter between the teams, a 26-23 win in Tokyo in June 2014.

The Brave Blossoms have won three of their five matches against 12th-ranked Georgia, including their most recent test, 28-22, in Tbilisi in November 2016.

The first test against Italy will take place on June 9, and the second a week later. The test against Georgia is scheduled for June 23. The venues and kickoff times have yet to be announced.

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