Japan head coach Jamie Joseph on Tuesday went with the tried-and-tested as he named a virtually unchanged team to take on Samoa on Thursday at the Rugby World Cup.

Dylan Riley, who was impressive off the bench in Japan's 34-12 defeat to England, starts at outside center, while Lomano Lava Lemeki will wear the No. 15 jersey, having come on as a replacement in just the seventh minute against the 2003 champions for the injured Semisi Masirewa.

Elsewhere, the pack and forward replacements remain exactly the same with Tomoki Osada dropping to the bench to cover the outside backs and Lee Seung Sin coming in as replacement fly-half.

Japan captain Kazuki Himeno (front L), Warner Dearns (front R) and other national rugby team players practice in Toulouse, France, on Sept. 26, 2023, ahead of a World Cup Pool D match against Samoa. (Kyodo)

"It was a tough decision in the centers but we have gone on form," Joseph said following the team's training run at Stade Ernest Wallon.

As for Lemeki's inclusion, Joseph said he "played very well for us against England. He had not played at that level for a long time and was the players' player-of-the-game for the way he came in under difficult circumstances."

Gu Ji Won has been named despite training with a heavily strapped right knee, but the tighthead prop aside, the team looked refreshed following a long break.

"We've had time to study our opponent and have the advantage in terms of time," said captain Kazuki Himeno, referring to the 10 days Japan will have had to prepare in comparison to five for Samoa.

Rather than seeking to bolster his pack with a 6-2 split, Joseph has brought Lee into the match-day squad, on the grounds that "I think it will be a very tight game."

"We need to attack, but we need to conserve our energy so we can defend our goal line," was Lemeki's take on the game.

Pieter "Lappies" Labuschagne, meanwhile, said the key was "to perform as a team and execute the game plan."

And if things do not go to plan, "We need to restructure and gain the momentum," the South Africa-born flanker said. "We will need to front up when they are charging at us but create momentum when we have the ball."

With both sides currently on five points from one win and a loss, defeat in Thursday's game at Stadium de Toulouse for either side would probably see them miss out on a quarterfinal spot and likely result in a fourth-place finish in Pool D, requiring them to qualify for the next World Cup.

Japan's final pool game is against Argentina, who will likely head into the Oct. 8 game in Nantes on nine points after facing Chile on Saturday. Samoa, meanwhile, finish off their pool campaign against England, who sit top of the ladder with 14 points.

Starting XV

Keita Inagaki, Shota Horie, Gu Ji Won; Jack Cornelsen, Amato Fakatava, Michael Leitch, Pieter "Lappies" Labuschagne, Kazuki Himeno; Yutaka Nagare, Rikiya Matsuda; Jone Naikabula, Ryoto Nakamura, Dylan Riley, Kotaro Matsushima, Lomano Lava Lemeki


Atsushi Sakate, Craig Millar, Asaeli Ai Valu; Warner Dearns, Kanji Shimokawa; Naoto Saito, Lee Seung Sin, Tomoki Osada

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