September 26, 2019 / 6:45 AM / 22 days ago

Rugby-Japan bench captain Leitch, Mafi at number eight for Ireland clash

HAMAMATSU, Japan, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Japan left captain Michael Leitch out of their starting team for Saturday’s clash with Pool A favourites Ireland as a fit-again Amanaki Mafi took his place in the back row as one of five changes from their opening day win over Russia.

With winger Kenki Fukuoka still unavailable with a calf injury, Ryohei Yamanaka comes in at fullback as Will Tupou shifts to the wing and Lomano Lemeki drops to the bench.

Elsewhere in the pack, Luke Thompson replaces Wimpie van der Walt in the second row, Jiwon Koo and Shota Horie come into the front row and Kazuki Himeno moves to flanker to make room for Mafi at number eight.

South Africa-born flanker Lappies Labuschagne will captain the side in Leitch’s absence.

Japan: 15-Ryohei Yamanaka, 14-Kotaro Matsushima, 13-Timothy Lafaele, 12-Ryoto Nakamura, 11-Will Tupou, 10-Yu Tamura, 9-Yutaka Nagare, 8-Amanaki Lelei Mafi, 7-Pieter Labuschagne, 6-Kazuki Himeno, 5-James Moore, 4-Luke Thompson, 3-Jiwon Koo, 2-Shota Horie, 1-Keita Inagaki

Replacements: 16-Atsushi Sakate, 17-Isileli Nakajima, 18-Asaeli Ai Valu, 19-Wimpie van der Walt, 20-Michael Leitch, 21-Fumiaki Tanaka, 22-Rikiya Matsuda, 23-Lomano Lemeki. (Reporting by Padraic Halpin Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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