Warburton captain, Roberts back for Wales vs Japan
CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Sam Warburton regained the captain's armband and Jamie Roberts was back at inside center amid 10 changes by Wales for the rugby test against Japan on Saturday.
Interim Wales coach Rob Howley has rotated heavily for the team's third match of the autumn series, after losing to Australia 32-8 and beating Argentina 24-20.
There was an all-new front row of Nicky Smith, Scott Baldwin and Samson Lee, meaning prop Gethin Jenkins — the captain against Argentina — misses out. Warburton, therefore, gets the captaincy back after temporarily leaving it to Jenkins.
Roberts was dropped against Argentina after being a stalwart for Wales over the past decade, but returned to the team in place of Scott Williams.
Dan Lydiate, another high-profile player to be dropped against the Pumas, regained his place in the back row alongside Warburton and the recalled James King.
Other players recalled when the team was announced on Thursday were lock Cory Hill, winger Alex Cuthbert, and the halfback pairing of Lloyd Williams and Gareth Anscombe, with the latter making his first start at flyhalf for Wales. Leigh Halfpenny, usually a fullback, will play on the wing with Liam Williams taking the No. 15 jersey.
"Continuity and momentum is important, hence keeping the likes of Alun-Wyn (Jones), Jon Davies and Sam in the side," Howley said, "but it is also an opportunity for players who were disappointed against Australia to start and for players who have been pushing on selection."
Meanwhile, Japan made four changes to the side which beat Georgia 28-22 in Tbilisi.
Veteran tighthead Kensuke Hatakeyama and 1.98-meter lock Samuela Anise were recalled to the pack, and Akihito Yamada and Kenki Fukuoka placed on the wings. Right wing Lemeki Lomano Lava, who scored two tries against Georgia, left the tour with a knee injury.
Japan conceded a weight and height advantage to Georgia, but produced outstanding defence to score four counterattacking tries, two in the last quarter to rally from 22-13 down.
"We want to perform in a Japanese way and we understand the set-piece is going to be tough for us, so we've been working really hard at that," coach Jamie Joseph said. "We're playing big men and we understand that. So we have to be more agile at set-pieces. For example, at the lineout we have to be more innovative to win the ball."
Wales: Liam Williams, Leigh Halfpenny, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Alex Cuthbert, Gareth Anscombe, Lloyd Williams; James King, Sam Warburton (captain), Dan Lydiate, Alun-Wyn Jones, Cory Hill, Samson Lee, Scott Baldwin, Nicky Smith. Reserves: Kristian Dacey, Rhys Gill, Scott Andrews, Jake Ball, Ross Moriarty, Gareth Davies, Sam Davies, Keelan Giles.
Japan: Kotaro Matsushima, Akihito Yamada, Timothy Lafaele, Harumichi Tatekawa, Kenki Fukuoka, Yu Tamura, Fumiaki Tanaka; Amanaki Lelei Mafi, Shunsuke Nunomaki, Malgene Ilaua, Kyosuke Kajikawa, Samuela Anise, Kensuke Hatakeyama, Shota Horie (captain), Satoshi Nakatani. Reserves: Takeshi Hino, Koki Yamamoto, Heiichiro Ito, Uwe Helu, Shuhei Matsuhashi, Yuhimaru Mimura, Keisuke Uchida, Amanaki Lotoahea.