NAGOYA – Japan captain Michael Leitch said Friday the Brave Blossoms would need to match Georgia’s physicality if they are to come away from their final test of the season with a win.
“We will always play our fast game but defensively we have to match them. If they start getting gain line after gain line it’s going to be a long day at the office,” Leitch said following his side’s captain’s run at Toyota Stadium.
Following a two-test series with Italy that finished all square, the Brave Blossoms are also looking to show they have the consistency needed to make an impression at next year’s Rugby World Cup.
The first test against Italy “showed our game is good enough to beat a Tier One side,” said head coach Jamie Joseph. “However, in the World Cup next year we play four test matches in four weeks and we have to back it up week after week. That’s why this game is so important for us.
“Although it’s against a different side, it’s a chance to overcome last week’s defeat and mentally get up again. If we can finish the June series with two wins, I think it will be a success, and that’s what we’re aiming at.”
His Georgian counterpart, Milton Haig, said Saturday’s game in Toyota, where the Lelos open their World Cup campaign against Wales on Sept. 23, 2019, was just as crucial for his side after losing to Tonga and Fiji the past two weeks.
“We’ve been using this tour to develop our game,” he said. “We want to use a bit more width. Of course we will rely on our traditional strengths in the set piece, but we want to move the ball as we need that to be competitive against Tier One nations.”
Leitch said last week’s defeat was the result of leadership issues on the field and he vowed things would be better Saturday when 11th-ranked Japan takes on a side ranked just one spot behind it in the world rankings.
“We just felt we weren’t on the same page and couldn’t execute our plan so that was one thing we took out of last week,” Leitch added.
The return of Shinya Makabe at lock adds a physical presence to the Japan pack and the 31-year-old said he was relishing being back in the national jersey.
“I will provide the engine to drive the scrum,” he said.
Makabe, like Leitch, talked about the physicality the Georgians bring to the game and explained the Brave Blossoms had been working on their maul defense.
He also said the first 20 minutes would be vital as the Georgians were a team that played on momentum.
Key to forcing the Georgians onto the back foot will be flyhalf Yu Tamura, who will need to reproduce his form of the first test against Italy — rather than last week’s effort when he faded in and out of the game — so as to make the most of the likes of Akihito Yamada and Ryuji Noguchi.
The Lelos opted Friday to train in Nagoya rather than get an early look at the match venue, which will be treated as an open stadium at next year’s tournament due to the roof being broken.
“We didn’t want to sit on a bus for an hour there and an hour back,” said captain Giorgi Nemsadze.
One player who knows plenty about both teams is Jaba Bregvadze, who plays for the Sunwolves.
However, Haig said the 31-year-old Georgia hooker had not given too much away regarding his Japanese Super Rugby teammates.
“We’ve watched Japan’s last six games so we have a fair bit of intel on them anyway,” said the former scrumhalf, who as a schoolboy was on the bench for the New Zealand province of Southland when it played Japan.
When asked if his team had had to change any of their calls owing to the presence of Bregvadze, Leitch joked, “No, it’s OK, his Japanese isn’t that flash.”
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