Preview: Japan v Wales
Preview: Japan v WalesSHARE
Japan's Brave Blossoms are steeling themselves for an almighty effort in the final Test against Wales as they bid to break a drought against major nations that stretches back nearly 80 years.
The six-time Asian champions are determined to avoid a repeat of last week's outing in Osaka, when they led for much of the game before being edged out 22-18 by a depleted version of the reigning Six Nations title-holders.
Victory against Wales, even if most of their top players are absent on British and Irish Lions duty, would be a boost for Japanese rugby on the road to hosting the 2019 World Cup.
It would also be Japan's first win over a leading rugby power in an international history which began in the 1930s and has included appearances at all seven editions of the World Cup so far.
Japan welcome back captain Toshiaki Hirose, the right wing who has been out since April with injury, in an otherwise unchanged starting team named by their coach, former Australia boss Eddie Jones.
"I'm really glad to be back. I'm excited to play a game. We lost the previous game by only four points. I really want to win this time," said Hirose.
"Last week, we couldn't score when we had a chance, so we changed our passing play a little bit. Hopefully, we can finish with a try."
Wales have made four changes with Cardiff Blues flank Josh Navidi making his debut. Tom Prydie, Rhys Gill and Andries Pretorius were also drafted into the starting team.
Wales, who have lost 15 players, head coach Warren Gatland and forwards coach Rob Howley to the Lions tour of Australia, have a five-game winning streak on the line in what will be their final game this season.
"We were proud of the side's effort last weekend but know we will have to step it up again on Saturday," said stand-in coach Robin McBryde.
"It was good to see the character of the squad come through in the first Test and we will need that again."
He added: "Japan showed what they are capable of last weekend and we know we will have to be at our best to get the second victory and finish the season on a high."
Players to watch:
For Japan: The return of captain Toshiaki Hirose will put the spotlight on him, but Japan will again look to their Super Rugby stars – scrumhalf Fumiaki Tanaka and hooker Shota Horie – to provide the spark.
For Wales: South African-born Andries Pretorius has been on the fringe long enough now to know that he has to stark taking the chances he gets and this week he starts at No.8. Wales will also look to captain Bradley Davies for better guidance than last week.
Head to head: The way wings play nowadays, popping up all over the field, it is probably not a direct head-to-head, but it will be worth watching how Japan's Toshiaki Hirose shapes up against Tom Prydie.
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: Last week Japan got a lot closer than we thought and maybe that's an indication of Wales' lack of depth. Japan will have gained some confidence from that, but we still believe that – given the weather conditions – the Welsh are just too strong. Wales by about 10 points.
Japan: 15 Ayumu Goromaru, 14 Toshiaki Hirose (captain), 13 Male Sau, 12 Craig Wing, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Harumichi Tatekawa, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Takashi Kikutani, 7 Michael Broadhurst, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Shoji Ito, 4 Hitoshi Ono, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Masataka Mikami.
Replacements: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Yusuke Nagae, 18 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 19 Shinya Makabe, 20 Justin Ives, 21 Atsushi Hiwasa, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Yoshikazu Fujita.
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Harry Robinson, 13 Owen Williams, 12 Jonathan Spratt, 11 Tom Prydie, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Andries Pretorius, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 James King 5 Lou Reed, 4 Bradley Davies (Captain), 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Emyr Phillips, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Andrew Coombs, 20 Dan Baker, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Dafydd Howells.
Date: Saturday, 15 June
Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo
Kick-off: 14.00 (05.00 GMT; 06.00 UK time)
Expected weather: Heavy rain showers predicted. High of 27°C and low of 21°C
Referee: Greg Garner (England)
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa), TBC (Japan)
AFP & rugby365