TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan have opted for experience when they take on Australia in Yokohama on Saturday, selecting seven 2015 World Cup veterans in the starting line-up.
Loose forward Michael Leitch, who led Japan’s dream World Cup run two years ago, will captain a side that has struggled to find consistency under coach Jamie Joseph.
Hooker Shota Horie and prop Keita Inagaki, both World Cup stalwarts, will start alongside Takuma Asahara on the front row while lock Kazuki Himeno, set to win his first cap, pairs with Uwe Helu in the second row.
Amanaki Mafi, a revelation at the 2015 World Cup and a standout for the Melbourne Rebels, will don the number eight jersey.
Scrumhalf Fumiaki Tanaka, with 61 caps, will form a halfback partnership with flyhalf Rikiya Matsuda.
After being sidelined by a spate of injuries, Harumichi Tatekawa returns in the centres, with his World Cup team mate Kotaro Matsushima chosen at fullback.
Tokai University student Ryuji Noguchi is more accustomed to playing fullback but will make a rare start on the wing in the absence of the injured Kenki Fukuoka and Akihito Yamada.
Tonga-born forwards Asaeli Ai Valu and Fetuani Lautaimi, along with South African Wimpie van der Walt, could all make their test debuts off the bench.
15-Kotaro Matsushima, 14-Lomano Lava Lemeki, 13-Timothy Lafaele, 12-Harumichi Tatekawa, 11-Ryuji Noguchi, 10-Rikiya Matsuda, 9-Fumiaki Tanaka, 8-Amanaki Mafi, 7-Shunsuke Nunomaki, 6-Michael Leitch (captain), 5-Uwe Helu, 4-Kazuki Himeno, 3-Takuma Asahara, 2-Shota Horie, 1-Keita Inagaki
Replacements: 16-Atsushi Sakate, 17-Koki Yamamoto, 18-Asaeli Ai Valu, 19-Wimpie van der Walt, 20-Fetuani Lautaimi, 21-Yutaka Nagare, 22-Yu Tamura, 23-Sione Teaupa
Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Peter Rutherford