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Friday, 9th September 2011
In Japan Sports News,

Japan take on France in opening game

Japan are scheduled to battle it out against France in their opening game of the Rugby World Cup tomorrow (September 10th).

The game, which kicks off at 7am in New Zealand's North Harbour Stadium, will see the two teams go head-to-head for a place at the top of the Pool A table.

After Japan beat the US 20-14 in a friendly match earlier this season, the team made 11 changes to its line-up but can now confirm Luke Thompson, Takashi Kitutani, Ryan Nicholas and Hirotoki Onozawa will all be starting.

Team captain, Kiutuani, explained how he feels about taking on Les Bleus on Saturday.

He said: "It's an honour and privilege to be facing France at full strength. We need to play to our strength, which is speed, and seeing that this is the World Cup we want to show the world what Japanese rugby is capable of."

France's Vincent Clerk said of his opponents: "They've improved a lot, they're very rigorous and want to improve on the international scene."

Currently Japan is ranked 13th by the IRB, while France holds the fourth position, with New Zealand at the top spot

Japan are due to face the reigning team the following weekend (September 16th) at 8 pm in Hamilton.

The side is bound to find it a tough struggle to make gains against New Zealand, who are renowned for their skills in the sport.

Other teams in Pool A are Tonga and Canada, whom Japan will take on later in the competition.

John Kirwan, Japan's coach, claimed he was confident of his line-up.

He said: "I told the team during the Pacific Nations Cup and the Asian 5 Nations that I would be picking the guys who I felt are playing the best at the moment.

"We had two guys unavailable because of injury, Justin Ives and [Yuta] Imamura. Besides those two, these are the 22 that we've decided are playing the best at the moment."

Other players due to start are Kosuke Endo, Shaun Webb and Michael Leitch.

Posted by Mark Smith  

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