World-class coaches, world-class players: how the Manu see Japan

Manu Samoa coach Vaeluaga Steve Jackson said Saturday’s World Cup opponents Japan have made great investment into their rugby, and it shows.

“You see the fruits of what they’ve done,” he said of the Brave Blossoms, who jumped to eighth in the World Rugby rankings after beating Ireland in their previous match.

“It doesn’t happen overnight, and they’ve done some extremely good work in a lot of different areas.

“They’ve got a world-class coaching group, there’s no doubt about that,” Vaeluaga said of Kiwi pair Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown.

He said they have some world-class players in their squad as well.

Manu fullback Tim Nanai-Williams said they are strong right through the side, but one player he knows well is captain Michael Leitch, having played together at the Chiefs.

“He’s definitely a player to watch out for, he leads from the front and he leads by his actions,” he said.

Nanai-Williams is among many who have been impressed by Japan’s growth over the years, having played domestically in the country as well as facing them at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

He said the current side are always bringing something new every game, so the Manu have to expect the unexpected.

Samoa lock Senio Toleafoa is prepared for anything as well:

“Japan have good ball skills, we don’t really know what they’re going to bring, they bring something new every game.”

He’ll be coming off the bench on Saturday night, and said his job is to make an impact and cause some havoc when he gets on the field.

Head coach Vaeluaga Steve Jackson said it’s exciting for the players to be playing at Toyota Stadium against the tournament hosts.

“Rugby World Cup in general at the moment, the crowds have been fantastic and loud,” he said.

The team are expecting a massive amount of support for the home side at the 45,000-seat stadium.

“The only way we can block the noise is by performance, starting well,” Vaeluaga said.

He said the game (kickoff 12:30am Samoan time) will be a fantastic occasion they are grateful to be part of, and they want to put on a great spectacle.

Meanwhile, the Brave Blossoms have made three changes to their starting XV that defeated Ireland 19-12 last Saturday.

Atsushi Sakate, Wimpie van der Walt and Michael Leitch all come into the starting line-up at the expense of Shota Horie, Luke Thompson and Amanaki Mafi.


Japan lineup to play Samoa:

1. Keita Inagaki
2. Atsushi Sakate
3. Jiwon Koo
4. Wimpie van der Walt
5. James Moore
6. Michael Leitch
7. Pieter Labuschagne (capt.)
8. Kazuki Himeno
9. Yutaka Nagare
10. Yu Tamura
11. Lomano Lava Lemeki
12. Ryoto Nakamura
13. Timothy Lafaele
14. Kotaro Matsushima
 15. Ryohei Yamanaka

16. Shota Horie
17. Isileli Nakajima
18. Asaeli Ai Valu
19. Uwe Helu
20. Hendrik Tui
21. Fumiaki Tanaka
22. Rikiya Matsuda
 23. Kenki Fukuoka

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