(Reuters) - Japan coach Jamie Joseph has made eight changes to the starting 15 ahead of Saturday’s second test against Ireland at the Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo.
Shota Horie and Fumiaki Tanaka were among the senior players dropped to the bench as the Brave Blossoms seek to restore some pride after a disappointing 50-22 loss in the first test.
Michael Leitch was named the captain of the side while Luke Thompson makes a comeback 18 months after announcing his retirement from international rugby.
Joseph said co-captain Harumichi Tatekawa had failed to recover from a calf injury, while Horie was given a break from the responsibility of leading the team, leaving him with Leitch as the obvious choice to lead the side.
“He (Leitch) is a good player and leader,” Joseph was quoted saying by Japan’s Kyodo News.
”Having Shota come on in the second half with his energy will make a difference.
“To win the match we need to play for 80 minutes and we need our experienced leaders to come on and show composure, discipline and intensity in the later stages.”
Shintaro Ishihara, Yusuke Niwai and Takuma Asahara feature in a fresh front row as five of the eight changes come in the pack. Shuhei Matsuhashi is slotted in to partner Leitch and Amanaki Lelei Mafi in the back row.
Japan: 15-Ryuji Noguchi, 14-Akihito Yamada, 13-Kotaro Matsushima, 12-Yu Tamura, 11-Kenki Fukuoka, 10-Jumpei Ogura, 9-Yutaka Nagare, 8-Amanaki Lelei Mafi, 7-Shuhei Matsuhashi, 6-Michael Leitch, 5-Uwe Helu, 4-Luke Thompson, 3-Takuma Asahara, 2-Yusuke Niwai, 1-Shintaro Ishihara.
Replacements: 16-Shota Horie, 17-Keita Inagaki, 18-Takayuki Watanabe, 19-Kotaro Yatabe, 20-Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 21-Fumiaki Tanaka, 22-Rikiya Matsuda, 23-Ryohei Yamanaka.
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Gareth Jones