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Michael Leitch moves into 2nd place for Japan’s clash with Georgia

Captain Michael Leitch will make his anticipated switch to second row and university student Yoshitaka Yazaki will play at fullback for the second time when Japan host Georgia in an international rugby test on Saturday.

The test, held at the Sendai Yurtec Stadium in northeastern Japan, is Eddie Jones’ second test since being re-appointed as head coach of the Brave Blossoms.

Leitch’s move away from the back row comes as Jones looks to implement his “super-fast” vision for Japanese rugby. Speaking to reporters after the team announcement on Thursday, Jones described Leitch, 35, as the best option at lock.

Japan captain Michael Leitch (C) and head coach Eddie Jones appear during an online press conference in Tokyo on July 11, 2024. (Copyright JRFU) (Kyodo)

“I’m getting a feel for the role,” Leitch said. “The key will be how well we can control their big forward.”

The Australian manager has selected Faulua Makisi from Kubota Spears and Kanji Shimokawa from Tokyo Sungoliath as speedy wingers, while Bordeaux’s Tevita Tatafu will start at number 8.

Naoto Saito, who signed with French team Toulouse next season, will play the scrumhalf position in the first five.

Japan currently sit 12th in the World Rugby rankings, two places above Georgia. The Brave Blossoms have won five and lost one of their previous encounters.


Relevant scope:

Rugby: Japan international Saito joins French giants Toulouse

Rugby: Japan XV beat Maori All Blacks in non-test match

Rugby: New Japan winger Tiennan Costley shows value on big stage



Japan:

Takayoshi Mohara, Mamoru Harada, Shuhei Takeuchi; Michael Leitch, Warner Dearns; Faulua Makisi, Kanji Shimokawa, Tevita Tatafu; Naoto Saito, Lee Seung Sin; Tomoki Osada, Samisoni Tua, Dylan Riley, Jone Naikabula, Yoshitaka Yazaki.

Reserves:

Atsushi Sakate, Takato Okabe, Keijiro Tamefusa, Sanaila Waqa, Tiennan Costley, Taiki Koyama, Takuya Yamasawa, Koga Nezuka.