Japan coach Jamie Joseph has named his team for the Pool A match against Russia at Tokyo Stadium on Friday, 20 September.
Michael Leitch, pictured, will become the second player to captain Japan at two World Cups, following Takuro Miuchi, and is one of eight players in Japan’s matchday squad who were also in the 23 that defeated South Africa in the Brave Blossoms’ RWC 2015 opener.
Like Leitch, Shota Horie and Kotaro Matsushima started then and will start in the RWC 2019 opener on Friday. Fumiaki Tanaka, Luke Thompson and Hendrik Tui started then and will be replacements at Tokyo Stadium. Keita Inagaki and Yu Tamura were replacements then.
Tamura has made more test appearances (20) for the Brave Blossoms during Jamie Joseph’s tenure as Japan head coach than any other player. Named in the starting XV, Tamura will extend that number to 21.
Luke Thompson could become the oldest player to represent Japan in the competition. At 38, he is the oldest player at RWC 2019. Should he come off the bench, Thompson will surpass Hitoshi Ono, who was 37 when he played for the Brave Blossoms four years ago.
Thompson could become the first player to feature for Japan in four World Cups. Yukio Motoki was also part of four RWC squads, but was an unused sub in 1991.
Winger Kotaro Matsushima has recorded at least one try in five of his last six test appearances, with a total of six.
Russia’s RWC 2019 squad has nine players who were called up for their maiden RWC campaign in 2011. Of the nine, seven played at RWC 2011 and Igor Galinovskiy and Andrey Ostrikov still need to make their debut in the tournament. The latter is starting at number four for Russia in this match. Andrey Garbuzov, Vasily Artemyev, Victor Gresev and Vladimir Ostroushko played in all four of Russia’s matches at RWC 2011. Artemyev and Ostroushko are starting and Garbuzov is on the bench. Gresev is not on the match-day squad. The aforementioned four and Evgeny Matveev were also in the match-day 23 in Russia’s previous World Cup match, a 68-22 defeat against Australia on 1 October, 2011.
Yury Kushnarev will be making a 110th test appearance and extend the Russia national team record. Victor Gresev, the only other Bears centurion, is not in the Bears’ match-day squad. Valery Morozov (Sale Sharks) and Andrey Ostrikov (FC Grenoble) are both starting and are the only players in the Bears’ 31-man squad that are attached to a rugby club outside of Russia. None of the 23 players selected by Russia has ever been in a side that has won an international match against Japan.
1.Keita Inagaki 2.Shota Horie 3.Asaeli Ai Valu 4.Wimpie van der Walt 5.James Moore 6.Michael Leitch (capt. 7.Pieter Labuschagne 8.Kazuki Himeno 9.Yutaka Nagare 10.Yu Tamura 11.Lomano Lava Lemeki 12.Ryoto Nakamura 13.Timothy Lafaele 14.Kotaro Matsushima 15.William Tupou
16.Atsushi Sakate 17.Isileli Nakajima 18.Jiwon Koo 19.Luke Thompson20.Hendrik Tui 21.Fumiaki Tanaka 22.Rikiya Matsuda 23.Ryohei Yamanaka
1.Valery Morozov 2. Stanislav Selskii 3. Kirill Gotovtsev 4. Andrey Ostrikov 5. Bogdan Fedotko 6. Vitaly Zhivatov 7. Tagir Gadzhiev 8. Nikita Vavilin 9. Vasily Dorofeev 10. Yury Kushnarev 11. Kirill Golosnitskiy 12. Dmitry Gerasimov 13. Vladimir Ostroushko 14. German Davydov 15. Vasily Artemyev (capt.)
16. Evgeny Matveev 17. Andrei Polivalov 18. Azamat Bitiev 19. Andrey Garbuzov 20. Anton Sychev 21. Dmitry Perov 22. Ramil Gaisin 23. Vladislav Sozonov