Japan and the USA remain unbeaten in the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup 2019 which sets up a winner-takes-all meeting in Suva on August 10 at 12:30 am ET. The match may be viewed live on NBC Sports Gold in the United States.
USA Head Coach Gary Gold made eight changes to the starting XV from last week’s 13-10 win over Samoa, resting some players, while providing others the opportunity to impress during the tournament finale.
Mikey Sosene-Feagai will start at hooker in his first appearance with the Men’s Eagles since facing Uruguay in 2016. Nate Brakeley will start at lock with Ben Landry shifting to the bench, while Malon Al-Jiboori and Hanco Germishuys are both in at flanker.
Newly-capped Jamason Fa’anana Schultz will take the No. 8 spot with Shaun Davies back in at scrumhalf. Madison Hughes will start at wing and Marcel Brache is back at center after completing the HIA protocol.
From the bench, Thretton Palamo could make his first appearance since facing Tonga in 2016. Palamo returns after a long-awaited recovery from injury.
Saturday’s full match-day roster features 307 cumulative test caps.
Japan Coach Jamie Joseph has made six changes in the Brave Blossoms starters, four of them in the forwards with James Moore and Uwe Helu at lock, Lappies Labuschagne at flanker and Hendrik Tui at No.8.
In the backs, Fumiaki Tanaka, who played in two Rugby World Cups, is at scrumhalf and Ryohei Yamanaka at fullback.
A person to watch is Kenki Fukuoka, whose speed on the wing has outpaced the opposition for tries.
The United States and Japan will meet for the first time since Rugby World Cup 2015 in England where the Eagles lost 28-18. This time, the 13th ranked USA men will face 11th ranked Japan for a chance to move up the World Rugby rankings. Even though the USA has a cumulative edge in the team series with14 wins, one draw and 8 losses against Japan, that will not be a factor in the match between two quality teams.
USA & Japan 2019 Pacific Nations Cup Squads
USA: 1. Chance Wenglewski (Rugby ATL, 5) 2. Mikey Sosene-Feagai (Auckland, 4) 3. Paul Mullen (Houston SaberCats, 12) 4. Nate Brakeley (Rugby United NY, 19) 5. Gregory Peterson (Newcastle Falcons , ENG, 24) 6. Malon Al- Jiboori (Glendale Raptors, 3) 7. Hanco Germishuys (Glendale Raptors, 15) 8. Jamason Fa’anana Shultz (Houston SaberCats, 1) 9. Shaun Davies (Glendale Raptors, 23) 10. AJ MacGinty (Sale Sharks, ENG, 23) 11. Madison Hughes (USA Sevens, 4) 12. Paul Lasike (Harlequins, ENG, 14)13. Marcel Brache (Western Force, AUS, 17) 14. Blaine Scully (C) (Unattached, 48) 15. Will Hooley (Bedford Blues, ENG, 10) 16. Dylan Fawsitt (Rugby United New York, 10) 17. David Ainu’u (Toulouse Rugby, FRA, 7) 18. Paddy Ryan (Rugby United New York, 6) 19. Ben Landry (Ealing Trailfinders, 20) 20. Ben Pinkelman (USA Sevens, 1) 21. Nate Augspurger (San Diego Legion, 22) 22. Will Magie (USA Sevens, 23) 23. Thretton Palamo (Houston SaberCats, 17)
Japan: 1 Keita Inagaki (Panasonic Wild Knights) 2 Shota Horie (Panasonic Wild Knights / Sunwolves) 3 Asaeli Valu (Panasonic Wild Knights / Sunwolves) 4 James Moore (Sanix Blues / Sunwolves) 5 Uwe Helu (Yamaha Jubilo / Sunwolves) 6 Michael Leitch (C) (Toshiba Brave Lupus) 7 Lappies Labuschagne (Kubota Spears) 8 Hendrik Tui (Suntory Sungoliath / Sunwolves) 9 Fumiaki Tanaka (Canon Eagles / Sunwolves) 10 Yu Tamura (Canon Eagles / Sunwolves) 11 Kenki Fukuoka (Panasonic Wild Knights) 12 Timothy Lafaele (Kobelco Steelers) 13 Will Tupou (Coca-Cola Red Sparks) 14 Kotaro Matsushima (Suntory Sungoliath) 15 Ryohei Yamanaka (Kobelco Steelers / Sunwolves) 16 Atsushi Sakate (Panasonic Wild Knights / Sunwolves) 17 Koki Yamamoto (Yamaha Jubilo) 18 Yusuke Kizu (Toyota Verblitz) 19 Wimpie van der Walt (NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes) 20 Kazuki Himeno (Toyota Verblitz) 21 Yutaka Nagare (Suntory Sungoliath) 22 Rikiya Matsuda (Panasonic Wild Knights / Sunwolves) 23 Lomano Lemeki (Honda Heat)
USA MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM XVs STAFF
General Manager Dave Hodges
Head Coach Gary Gold
Assistant Coach, Attack Greg McWilliams
Assistant Coach, Set Piece Shawn Pittman
Assistant Coach, Defense Jaque Fourie
Strength & Conditioning Coach Huw Bevan
Performance Analyst Jimmy Harrison
Assistant S&C and Analyst Tom Kindley
Team Doctor Mark Sakr
Team Doctor Sam Akhavan
Head Athletic Trainer Kevin Ng
Athletic Trainer Kristen Douhan
Massage Therapist Daliah Hurwitz
Team Manager Chris Hanson
Assistant Team Manager Mark Drown