Preview: Wales v Japan

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 17:21

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Wales hope to avoid the pitfalls of the past after making ten changes to the side that will play Japan in Cardiff on Saturday.

Interim Wales coach Rob Howley made wholesale alterations to the line-up that beat Argentina 24-20 to end a five-match losing streak, resting players ahead of next week's November finale at home to South Africa.

The Japan match will see New Zealand-born Gareth Anscombe make his first start at flyhalf for Wales.

Howley has, however, retained the experienced duo of captain Sam Warburton and Alun Wyn Jones in the pack and recalled veteran centre Jamie Roberts in a bid to provide the stability that Wales have often lacked after rotating their side.

."Gareth has been patient," said Howley, in charge while Warren Gatland is seconded to the British and Irish for the combined side's 2017 tour of New Zealand.

"We wanted to involve him last weekend but we were comfortable in the game so we didn't involve him. But he gets his opportunity now and I am sure he will be ready to go."

Former Wales and Lions scrumhalf Howley added: "There have been changes but it is still a very experienced side and continuity is important. We feel the experience with people like Alun Wyn and Sam will be needed against Japan and also for us to maintain momentum.

"It is also important to give an opportunity to individuals who may have been disappointed with their performances against Australia," explained Howley in a reference to the lacklustre 8-32 loss to the Wallabies with which Wales opened their November campaign.

Wales will also be well aware their last meeting against 2019 World Cup hosts Japan ended in a 8-23 defeat in Tokyo three years ago, albeit the bulk of their first-choice team was with the British an Irish Lions in Australia.

Lloyd Williams, James King, Scott Baldwin and Liam Williams, who switches to fullback while Leigh Halfpenny is moved to the wing, were all involved in the first Welsh defeat by the Brave Blossoms.

Japan's new head coach Jamie Joseph has made four changes from the side that gave him his first win, a 28-22 victory over Georgia in Tbilisi last week.

That followed a 54-20 loss to Argentina in former New Zealand international Joseph's first game in charge.

Nevertheless, Howley said: "Japan's performances against Argentina and particularly Georgia were fantastic.

"They showed their ability on the counter-attack to move the ball wide and they are very dangerous.

"From a defensive perspective we are going to have to be on our guard because Japan like chaos, they like an unstructured game.”

Veteran prop Kensuke Hatakeyama, second row Samuela Anise and wings Akihito Yamada and Kenki Fukuoka are recalled to bolster a hugely inexperienced Japan side that includes five forwards with two or fewer caps.

Fukuoka replaces Karne Hesketh, who scored the last-gasp try in Japan's stunning victory over South Africa at the 2015 World Cup.

Japan still feature five players from that stunning success under then coach Eddie Jones, now in charge of England, including captain Harumichi Tatekawa.

"We are starting from scratch because so many of those players from last year have either retired or are unavailable," said Joseph.

"We picked 17 new players for this tour, which is almost unheard of at Test level, but we are building for the next stage of Japanese rugby.

"The result in Georgia was massive for us but this will be a major step up.

"Wales have players in their back line who are bigger than some of our forwards, so we have to play smart and be innovative."

Recent results:
2013: Japan won 23-8, Tokyo
2013: Wales won 22-18, Osaka
2007: Wales won 72-18, Cardiff (World Cup pool match)
2004: Wales won 98-0, Cardiff
2001: Wales won 53-30, Tokyo
2001: Wales won 64-10, Osaka
1999: Wales won 64-15, Cardiff (World Cup pool match)
1995: Wales won 57-10, Bloemfontein (World Cup pool match)
1993: Wales won 55-5, Cardiff

Prediction: Wales, on the face of it, simply have too much talent. It is almost just a matter of the margin. We feel Wales will win by at least 20 points.


Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Alex Cuthbert, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 James King, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Cory Hill, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Ross Moriarty, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Keelan Giles.

Japan: 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Akihito Yamada, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Shunsuke Nunomaki, 6 Malgene Ilaua, 5 Samuela Anise, 4 Kyosuke Kajikawa, 3 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Satoshi Nakatani.
Replacements: 16 Takeshi Hino, 17 Koki Yamamoto, 18 Heiichiro Ito, 19 Uwe Helu, 20 Shuhei Matsuhashi, 21 Yuhimaru Mimura, 22 Keisuke Uchida, 23 Amanaki Lotoahea.

Date: Saturday, November 19
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 14.30 (14.30 GMT; 23.30 Japan time)
Expected weather: When the roof is closed, the weather is not too much of a factor. Outside the stadium it will be well below 10°C and it won't be much warmer inside
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Craig Maxwell-Keys (England)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)

Agence France-Presse