Japan coach Jamie Joseph made four changes to his starting XV and one positional switch Friday ahead of the Brave Blossoms' second Rugby World Cup Pool D game against England at Stade de Nice on Sunday.

Captain Kazuki Himeno returns to lead the side from No. 8 with Jack Cornelsen shifting from the back row to the engine room. Meanwhile, veteran Shota Horie will start at hooker with Pieter "Lappies" Labuschagne coming in at flanker and the in-form Tomoki Osada replacing Dylan Riley at outside center.

"It's the best pack we can name," said Joseph after the team had a very short and relaxed inspection of the match venue, having trained earlier in the day at the home of the AS Monaco football club.

"England are strong in the set piece and they put us under pressure there the last time we played. They control the game very well with their kicking game and their set piece. We need to accept the pressure that is coming and deal with it."

Japan national team players are seen on Sept. 15, 2023, during a visit to the stadium in Nice, France, where they will face England in a Pool D match of the Rugby World Cup. (Kyodo)

England's kicking game was mentioned on numerous occasions, but Joseph is hopeful the back three of Jone Naikabula, Kotaro Matsushima and Semisi Masirewa will not only be able to deal with the pressure, but also make the most of any loose kicks to launch the Japan attack.

Himeno, who will form a combative and mobile back row alongside Labuschagne and Michael Leitch, missed the opening game against Chile and is keen to get his World Cup off to a winning start.

"We are 100 percent prepared," Himeno said. "This week I have used the word 'brave' when talking about leadership, and I want to lead the team that way. It's important we have the courage to play without fear."

Both teams opened their campaigns with wins -- England 27-10 over Argentina and Japan 42-12 over Chile -- so the winners of Sunday's game will be in the driver's seat of a group that also includes Samoa.

The game will be played at a ground that reminded many at Friday's inspection of the stadium in Brighton where the Brave Blossoms famously beat South Africa in 2015, including one of the heroes of that game Ayumu Goromaru, who is here in a media role.

Leitch said he had been reminded of Japan's famous win when watching Uruguay play so valiantly against France the night before.

"Our team has changed massively since then and we are up against one of the best teams in the world," he said. "But I'm looking forward to creating a new history for the Japan team."

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, Tomoki Osada, Kotaro Matsushima, Semisi Masirewa


Atsushi Sakate, Craig Millar, Asaeli Ai Valu; Warner Dearns, Kanji Shimokawa; Naoto Saito, Dylan Riley, Lomano Lava Lemeki