PARIS (AP) — Japan sense a chance of upsetting France in their rugby test on Saturday.
France's morale is low after six consecutive losses since June, one of them a non-test, all to either South Africa or New Zealand. Coach Guy Noves is feeling the heat from only three wins in 10 tests this year.
Japan has not beaten France in three previous tests, the last at the 2011 Rugby World Cup, but France's problems haven't escaped them.
"We understand the French team is also under a lot of pressure from the public so maybe we can use that to our advantage," Japan captain Michael Leitch said.
This month, Japan lost to Australia 63-30 in Yokohama, and defeated Tonga by an impressive 39-6 in Toulouse last weekend.
"We've been together now for five weeks and seen some good growth in the players' skills and also their mindsets around playing test-match rugby," Japan coach Jamie Joseph said. "So we're really confident going into the game."
Japan changed just one from the win over Tonga, starting Yutaka Nagare at scrumhalf and dropping veteran Fumiaki Tanaka to the reserves. Joseph said he always intended to give Nagare a start this month.
Japan: Kotaro Matsushima, Lomano Lava Lemeki, Tomothy Lafaele, Harumichi Tatekawa, Kenki Fukuoka, Yu Tamura, Yutaka Nagare; Amanaki Lelei Mafi, Michael Leitch (captain), Kazuki Himeno, Shinya Makabe, Wimpie van der Walt, Jiwon Koo, Shota Horie, Keita Inagaki. Reserves: Atsushi Sakate, Shintaro Ishihara, Asaeli Ai Valu, Yoshitaka Tokunaga, Fetuani Lautaimi, Fumiaki Tanaka, Sione Teaupa, Yoshikazu Fujita.