Rugby World Cup 2011

Japan name strongest team

2011-09-08 08:29
John Kirwan (File)

Auckland - Asian and Pacific champions Japan named a virtual full-strength line-up Thursday for Saturday's Rugby World Cup opener against European heavyweights France at North Harbour stadium.

Coach and All Blacks great John Kirwan made just two changes from last month's warm-up defeat to Italy, with Luke Thompson coming in for the injured Justin Ives and veteran Hirotoki Onozawa getting the nod on the wing.

Flank Takashi Kikutani remains captain of the team which claimed their fourth straight Asian Five Nations title in May and lifted a maiden Pacific Nations Cup in July.

"These guys are definitely the guys who are on form. We had two guys who are unavailable through injury - Justin Ives and (Yuta) Imamura - so besides those two these are the 22 that we decided are playing the best at the moment," Kirwan said.

Japan are seeking to improve their World Cup record of just one win in six appearances, but they are facing a tough Pool A also including New Zealand, Tonga and Canada.

"We talked about winning two games and that's one of the important goals for us. I think the most important thing for us is to be the most improved side in the World Cup," Kirwan said.

"To do that we need to be very competitive on Saturday night and next Friday night (against New Zealand) and play incredibly well to get two wins.

"For us it's the start of the tournament and we really want to show the world how much the Japanese team has improved."

The run-on team featured five non-ethnic Japanese players, continuing Kirwan's policy of using foreign talent to boost the team's fortunes as they prepare to host the World Cup in 2019.

Japan have never won in eight meetings with France, including a 29-51 reverse at the 2003 World Cup in Australia.



15 Shaun Webb, 14 Kosuke Endo, 13 Koji Taira, 12 Ryan Nicholas, 11 Hirotoki Onozawa, 10 James Arlidge,9  Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Ryukoliniasi Holani, 7 Michael Leitch, 6 Takashi Kikutani (captain), 5 Toshizumi Kitagawa, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Hisateru Hirashima

Substitutes: 16 Yusuke Aoki, 17 Nozomu Fujita, 18 Hitoshi Ono, 19 Itaru Taniguchi, 20 Atsushi Hiwasa, 21 Murray Williams, 22 Alisi Tupuailai

15 Cedric Heymans, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Aurelien Rougerie, 12 Fabrice Estebanez, 11 Maxime Medard, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, 7 Raphael Lakafia, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 5 Lionel Nallet, 4 Pierre Julien, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 William Servat, 1 Fabien Barcella

Substitutes: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Jean-Baptiste Poux, 18 Pascal Pape, 19 Julien Bonnaire, 20 Morgan Parra, 21 David Skrela, 22 David Marty


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