Kirwan shows his hand
September 7, 2011
Japan boss John Kirwan, a true All Black legend, is a major draw in New Zealand © Getty Images
Japan boss John Kirwan has unveiled his side for Saturday's Rugby World Cup Pool A clash with France at the North Harbour Stadium in Auckland.
There are just two survivors from the back-line which faced the United States in Tokyo last month, with Ryan Nicholas retaining his place at inside centre and Hirotoki holding on to the No.11 jersey. Shaun Webb returns at fullback, Koji Taira joins Nicholas in midfield, while Kosuke Endo is recalled on the right wing. Meanwhile, James Arlidge takes over at ten from Murray Williams, who drops to the bench, and the former Dragons playmaker will be joined in the half-backs by Fumiaki Tanaka.
It's a similar story in the pack, with Kirwan only retaining two players who started against the Americans: Luke Thompson, who has been paired with Toshizumi Kitagawa in the second-row, and captain Takashi Kikutani, who switches from No.8 to blindside flanker to accommodate Ryukoliniasi Holani.
Elsewhere, Hisateru Hirashima, Shota Horie, Kensuke Hatakeyama form a new front-row, while Michael Leitch gets the nod on the openside.
Japan: Shaun Webb; Kosuke Endo, Koji Taira, Ryan Nicholas, Hirotoki Onozawa; James Arlidge, Fumiaki Tanaka; Hisateru Hirashima, Shota Horie, Kensuke Hatakeyama; Luke Thompson, Toshizumi Kitagawa; Takashi Kikutani (capt), Michael Leitch, Ryukoliniasi Holani.
Replacements: Yusuke Aoki, Nozomu Fujita, Hitoshi Ono, Itaru Taniguchi, Atsushi Hiwasa, Murray Williams, Alisi Tupuailai.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton