October 3, 2019 / 9:20 AM / 10 days ago

Rugby: Horie out, Leitch in for Japan against Samoa

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan have made three changes to the starting line-up that stunned Ireland for Saturday’s Rugby World Cup Pool A match against Samoa, including bringing Michael Leitch back into the side.

Leitch comes in at flanker for Kazuki Himeno, who moves to number eight following the injury to Amanaki Mafi in the match against Ireland.

Leitch’s arrival off the bench in the first half in Shizuoka changed the match, with Japan appearing to gain extra resolve and organisation from having their regular skipper on the field.

Leitch eventually led Japan to a famous 19-12 victory that puts the World Cup hosts in pole position to progress from the pool to the quarter-finals for the first time in their history.

Pieter Labuschange, who completes Japan’s back row at openside, retains the captaincy from the Ireland match.

Hooker Shota Horie, man of the match against Ireland, drops to the bench and is replaced in the front row by Atsushi Sakate.

Wimpie van der Walt is the third man to come in, replacing 38-year-old Luke Thompson at lock.

Thompson, who is one cap shy of breaking Japan’s all-time Rugby World Cup appearances record, is not in the 23-man squad and is being rested for the last Pool A match against Scotland.

Kenki Fukuoka, Japan’s try-scoring hero against the Irish, is again named on the bench as he continues to manage a calf injury.

Kotaro Matushima and Lomano Lemeki start on the wing with Ryohei Yamanaka making up the back three.

Team: 15-Ryohei Yamanaka, 14-Kotaro Matsushima, 13-Timothy

Lafaele, 12-Ryoto Nakamura, 11-Lomano Lemeki, 10-Yu Tamura, 9-Yutaka Nagare, 8-Kazuki Himeno, 7-Pieter Labuschagne (captain), 6-Michael Leitch, 5-James Moore, 4-Wimpie van der Walt, 3-Jiwon Koo, 2-Atsushi Sakate, 1-Keita Inagaki

Replacements: 16-Shota Horie , 17-Isileli Nakajima,

18-Asaeli Ai Valu, 19-Uwe Helu, 20-Hendrik Tui,

21-Fumiaki Tanaka, 22-Rikiya Matsuda, 23-Kenki Fukuoka

(This story was corrected to remove reference to Leitch as captain)

Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty

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