Japan makes 1 enforced change for World Cup QF vs Springboks
TOKYO (AP) — Michael Leitch still isn’t satisfied, even after his Japan squad qualified for the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals for the first time.
Leitch will line up against South Africa on Sunday four years after being part of the team that produced the most shocking upset in the tournament’s history with a victory over the Springboks.
The so-called Miracle of Brighton, he says, is history. Topping Pool A with wins over Ireland, Scotland, Samoa and Russia this time achieved the pre-tournament goal of reaching the knockout stages on home soil. Time to re-set, Leitch said.
“This is not the end of the story,” Leitch told a packed news conference Friday in downtown Tokyo. “We’re not satisfied.”
“The match we had four years ago, the world started to focus on the Japan rugby team — surprised — and the fans of Japan were struck with how we played. We’ve got the chance to do it live in front of the Japanese people again.”
Japan capped the pool stage with a 28-21 win over Scotland in Yokohama last Sunday night, and only made one injury-enforced change to its lineup to face South Africa after fullback William Tupou failed a head injury assessment and was ruled out of selection.
Ryohei Yamanaka moved from the bench to fullback in a direct replacement for Tupou.
There’s eight players in the Japan squad who were involved in the upset over South Africa four years ago, with Leitch, Kotaro Matsushima, Shota Horie and Luke Thompson in the starting lineup again.
Keita Inagaki and Yu Tamura started on the bench four years ago but are in the starting lineup for the game at Tokyo Stadium. Fumiaki Tanaka and Amanaki Lelei Mafi are again on the bench.