LONDON – Experienced winger Akihito Yamada returns to the Japan team to face England at Twickenham on Saturday as one of eight changes from the side beaten by New Zealand two weeks ago.
The 33-year-old Yamada, one of the survivors of the 2015 World Cup upset win over South Africa, missed the 69-31 defeat by the All Blacks but comes back on the right wing, with Kenki Fukuoka on the left.
William Tupou moves from outside center to fullback and Timothy Lafaele switches from 12 to 13 in a new midfield partnership with Ryoto Nakamura.
There was no place on the match squad for winger Jamie Henry, who scored a great try in his debut against the All Blacks.
Up front captain Michael Leitch is on the blindside flank alongside Kazuki Himeno and Masakatsu Nishikawa.
Brave Blossoms coach Jamie Joseph recognized the magnitude of the challenge facing his team but said he still had confidence that it could trouble England on its first visit to Twickenham.
“We’re going to have to take what comes at us and throw something back,” the former All Blacks flanker said.
“I think some of our players are up to it mentally and physically. We do have smaller men and we do play the game differently because of that so we try to keep the game quick.”
Joseph was also pleased to have Yamada back and felt he would help calm the atmosphere.
“He has been in this situation many times before more than most Japanese players and he has more than enough experience to deal with what is coming at Twickenham,” he said.
“I’ve got this rule with Japanese players, you give them minus five years because they don’t play as much rugby as the English or the Kiwis or the Aussies so in my books he is about 27.
“He is a big-game player — a couple of years ago he scored against Wales (when the Welsh scraped a 33-30 Cardiff win with a last-minute drop-goal). He loves the stage and you don’t get a bigger stage than Twickenham.”
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