Kirwan shakes up Japan XV to face All Blacks

(Rugby News Service) Wednesday 14 September 2011
Kirwan shakes up Japan XV to face All Blacks
John Kirwan wants Japan to learn from their match with France

HAMILTON, 15 Sept. - Japan coach John Kirwan demonstrated his faith in his entire squad of 30 as he changed 10 of the starting XV for Friday's Pool A match against hosts New Zealand.

The five hold-overs from Japan's impressive performance in a 47-21 loss to France on Saturday are second row Toshizumi Kitagawa, back rows Michael Leitch and Takashi Kikutani, centre Koji Taira and wing Hirotoki Onozawa.

Fly half James Arlidge, man of the match in the France game, was not even among the substitutes and is replaced by New Zealand-born Murray Williams.

New Zealander Kirwan, whose goal for this Rugby World Cup is to beat Tonga and Canada in Japan's last two pool games, said the players who take the pitch at Waikato Stadium against the All Blacks must rise to the occasion.

"Firstly, everyone's done the same amount of hard work," the former All Black said on Wednesday. "Everyone has done the blood, sweat and tears and this is a tournament so it's important to realise we are a team of 30.

Lessons to learn

"I know it's a cliché, but it's the truth. We will not achieve our goals unless all 30 of us contribute.

"The players that are playing on Friday night have a huge opportunity to play themselves into what is our big Test match, which is Tonga."

Kirwan said if Japan are to compete against the world's No.1 team and the tournament's big favourites, they cannot make the same mistakes they did against France.

The Brave Blossoms pulled within four points of Les Bleus midway through the second half, but allowed the French three unanswered tries down the stretch.

"I thought at 25-21, we lost a little bit of shape and so this week, what we need to do is implement the way we play on opposition," Kirwan said.

"If we get in a situation where we can win a football game, we need to just keep a level head and keep doing what we've been doing. Maybe work for three points rather than push for another try."

RNS sk/gs/sg