Japan captain Michael Leitch is focused on a strong performance rather than the final result when his side faces the United States on Saturday in the Pacific Nations Cup tournament decider at ANZ Stadium in Suva.
Japan, ranked No. 11 in the world, will take on the No. 13 Eagles in a winner-take-all clash, which is also the Brave Blossoms' second-to-last match ahead of the World Cup, which opens on Sept. 20.
"The most important thing is whether we can pull off a strong performance," Japan captain Michael Leitch said at Thursday's team announcement. "The World Cup is our single most important goal, so I won't talk about winning (the PNC)."
The two teams will be facing off for the first time since the 2015 World Cup in England. Japan won that Pool B clash 28-18 to improve to 9-13 against the Eagles, with one draw.
Leitch leads a side on Saturday that sees seven players replacing members of the starting XV in last weekend's 41-7 victory over Tonga at Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Osaka Prefecture.
Three players will appear in the 2019 PNC for the first time. Scrumhalf Fumiaki Tanaka returns after hurting his right hamstring, giving the coaches an opportunity to see him playing with Yu Tamura in the halfback slot.
Hendrik Tui will take over from Amanaki Lelei Mafi at No. 8, while Ryohei Yamanaka will earn playing time at fullback, causing a shuffle among the backs.
Flanker Pieter "Lappies" Labuschagne, who made his Japan debut in this tournament, was named to the side after skipping the Tonga test due to a medial ligament strain to his knee. The oldest player to represent Japan, 38-year-old lock Luke Thompson, will sit out the match.
The Brave Blossoms and the Eagles are the only unbeaten teams at the PNC, which also features Canada, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji.
Japan opened the tournament with a 34-21 win over Fiji in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, before the strong win over Tonga last Saturday. The United States followed a 47-19 win over Canada by edging Samoa 13-10.
While Japan have improved their set-play over the previous matches, Leitch said the team is heading into a difficult challenge against the Americans, a match that can be an important test ahead of the World Cup opener against Russia.
"I think (the U.S.) are the strongest team at this tournament. They are largely-built, similar to the Russian team," he said. "I want it to be a match in which we can demonstrate our absolute best performance."
The Brave Blossoms will play their final pre-World Cup match on Sept. 6 against South Africa in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture.