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Rugby: Leitch to lead 23-man Japan squad against New Zealand

The Japan Rugby Football Union on Thursday named a 23-man squad led by flanker Michael Leitch for the test match against World No. 1 New Zealand.

Kobe Kobelco Steelers prop Hiroshi Yamashita will play his first test since the 2015 World Cup in Saturday’s match at Ajinomoto Stadium against the All Blacks, whose place at the top of the rankings has been unbroken since 2009.

His club teammate Ryohei Yamanaka has been named to start at fullback, while Toyota Verblitz flanker Kazuki Himeno returns to the lineup after missing last Friday’s exhibition match against the World XV through injury.

Canon Eagles flyhalf Yu Tamura is set to earn his 52nd cap, starting on the outside of Suntory Sungoliath scrumhalf Yutaka Nagare.

Three-time World Cup champions New Zealand have won all three of their previous tests against Japan, including a 54-6 victory in their most recent meeting at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in 2013.

Japan’s New Zealand-born wing Loman Lava Lemeki will not take part in Saturday’s game after hurting his right leg in training on Monday.

According to Fox Sports Australia, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has named an unprecedented eight new caps to play Japan, opting to send his top team to London to prepare for their upcoming test against England.

Ajinomoto Stadium will host the opening match of Rugby World Cup 2019 between Japan and Russia.

All — Kyodo News+

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