In a warm-up match before the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, Japan play the USA Eagles at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo.
The USA have just lost twice to Canada, once in Toronto and the second in Colorado, while Japan just lost to Italy in Italy. Both sides would like to go to New Zealand in a more confident frame of mind. John Kirwan, Japan's coach, said: “It’s very important that we go to the World Cup with a win and a good performance behind us. I haven’t set the team any particular targets. We just need to win and win well.”
Both sides have made lots of changes. The Eagles have made eight changes to the team Canada beat in Glendale. Kirwan went a few better with his Japan side. He made 12 personnel changes and one positional switch from the team that lost 31-24 to Italy last week, saying he had always planned to play two different starting XVs.
Kirwan said: “I believe everyone in the squad should have the opportunity to put themselves forward for selection for the game against France. And I told the players that last week."
Kirwan will be naming his 30-man World Cup squad on Monday.
Captain Takashi Kikutani moves to No.8 from blindside flank and lines up alongside Sione Vatuvei and Tadasuke Nishihara in the backrow. Luke Thompson and Hitoshi Ono start at lock with Naoki Kawamata, Yusuke Aoki and Nozomu Fujita in the front row.
The two players to line up in the same jerseys as last week are wing Takehisa Usuzuki and centre Ryan Nicholas, though Nicholas only came into the side as the result of an ankle injury to Yuta Imamura that will keep him out for two weeks.
Nicholas lines up alongside Alisi Tupuailei with Tomoki Yoshida and Murray Williams at scrumhalf, while Hirotoki Onozawa returns on the left wing with utility back Taihei Ueda at fullback.
USA coach Eddie O'Sullivan, who is due to name his 30 for the World Cup after the match, said: “Again we have made a number of changes to selection, as this is our final hit out before Rugby World Cup and also our last opportunity to take a look at players before we make the final squad announcement."
Captain Todd Clever, who plays his club rugby in Tokyo at Suntory Sungoliath, is unavailable because of injury. Scrumhalf Mike Petri, who will lead the Eagles against Japan, said: “I am obviously disappointed for Todd, but I hope to continue the good work he has done, and set an example. I am really looking forward to this opportunity."
Mike Macdonald starts at loosehead for his 62nd Test since his debut in 2000, a veteran of the World Cups of 2003 and 2007. Phillip Thiel returns to hooker alongside Eric Fry, who starts at tighthead prop. Scott LaValla will partner Hayden Smith at lock, with the loose trio consisting of Patrick Danahy, Louis Stanfill and JJ Gagiano, who was on the bench for the Canadian Tests.
Kevin Swiryn returns to the wing, together with the experienced James Paterson. The Otago winger has played in both the ITM Cup and Super Rugby competitions, having represented the USA at the Under-19 World Championship. Tai Enosa comes in at outside centre with Paul Emerick shifting to inside centre. Nese Malifa is at flyhalf.
*In 2008 the Brave Blossoms beat the Eagles 29-19 and 32-17.
Japan: 15 Taihei Ueda (Honda Heat), 14 Takehisa Usuzuki (Toshiba Brave Lupus), 13 Alisi Tupuailai (Canon Eagles), 12 Ryan Nicholas (Suntory Sungoliath), 11 Hirotoki Onozawa (Suntory Sungoliath), 10 Murray Williams (Toyota Industries Shuttles), 9 Tomoki Yoshida (Toshiba Brave Lupus), 8 Takashi Kikutani (Toyota Verblitz), 7 Tadasuke Nishihara (Panasonic Wild Knights), 6 Sione Vatuvei (Panasonic Wild Knights), 5 Luke Thompson (Kintetsu Liners), 4 Hitoshi Ono (Toshiba Brave Lupus), 3 Nozomu Fujita (Honda Heat), 2 Yusuke Aoki (Suntory Sungoliath), 1 Naoki Kawamata (Panasonic Wild Knights),
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie (Panasonic Wild Knights), 17 Kensuke Hatakeyama (Suntory Sungoliath), 18 Toshizumi Kitagawa (Toyota Verblitz), 19 Itaru Taniguchi (Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers), 20 Atsushi Hiwasa (Suntory Sungoliath), 21 Koji Taira (Suntory Sungoliath), 22 Shaun Webb (Coca-Cola West Red Sparks)
USA Eagles: 15 Blaine Scully (Unattached), 14 Kevin Swiryn (Agen), 13 Tai Enosa (Belmont Shore), 12 Paul Emerick (Life University), 11 James Paterson (Otago), 10 Nese Malifa (Glendale), 9 Mike Petri (New York Athletic Club) (captain), 8 JJ Gagiano (University of Cape Town), 7 Louis Stanfill (Unattached), 6 Patrick Danahy (Life University), 5 Hayden Smith (Saracens), 4 Scott LaValla (Stade Français), 3 Eric Fry (Las Vegas Blackjacks), 2 Phillip Thiel (Life University), 1 Mike Macdonald (Leeds Carnegie)
Replacements: 16 Chris Biller (San Francisco Golden Gate), 17 Shawn Pittman (London Welsh), 18 Nic Johnson (Unattached), 19 Ryan Chapman (Utah Warriors), 20 Tim Usasz (Nottingham RFC), 21 Roland Suniula (Boston Rugby), 22 Andrew Suniula (Chicago Griffins)
Date: Sunday, 21 August 2011
Kick-off: 18.00 (local time)
Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo
Expected weather conditions: Mostly cloudy with a high of 26°C, dropping a bit to 22°C
Referee: Jérôme Garces (France)
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