The 2019 Rugby World Cup opens with host Japan ranked 10th facing 20th ranked Russia at Tokyo Stadium in Tokyo on 20 September. Kickoff is at 19:45 local (06:45 ET). The match is being broadcast on NBCSN and maybe also viewed on NBC Sports Gold for subscribers for the RWC package.
Japan Head Coach Jamie Joseph has selected a matchday squad which includes eleven Sunwolves players, including four starters.
The Brave Blossoms defeated South Africa in the 2015 RWC opener. Captain Michael Leitch, Shota Horie, and Kotaro Matsushima started then and will start in the RWC 2019 opener on Friday. Fumiaki Tanaka, Luke Thompson, and Hendrik Tui also started but will be replacements at Tokyo Stadium. Keita Inagaki and Yu Tamura were replacements in 2015 but will start against Russia.
Michael Leitch will become the second player to captain Japan at two World Cups, following Takuro Miuchi.
Luke Thompson could become the oldest player to represent Japan in the competition. At 38, he is the oldest player at RWC 2019. He could become the first player to feature for Japan in four World Cups.
Winger Kotaro Matsushima has recorded at least one try in five of his last six test appearances, with a total of six.
Japan plays expansive rugby and looks to find gaps in the wide channels. The team will be the crowd favorite, as well as the match favorite to emerge with the win.
Russia coach Lyn Jones (WAL) has named his team for the Pool A match against Japan at Tokyo Stadium on Friday, 20 September.
Russia has the oldest team in the RWC with nine players selected for the RWC 2011. Seven players made their debut in the tournament that year with Igor Galinovskiy and Andrey Ostrikov still needing to debut in an RWC with Ostrikov debuting this year at lock.
Andrey Garbuzov, Vasily Artemyev, Victor Gresev, and Vladimir Ostroushko played in all four of Russia’s matches at RWC 2011. Artemyev and Ostroushko are starting and Garbuzov is on the bench. Yury Kushnarev will be making a 110th test appearance and extend the Russia national team record. Victor Gresev, the only other Bears centurion, is not in the Bears’ match-day squad.
Evgeny Matveev was also in the match-day 23 in Russia’s previous World Cup match, a loss against Australia on 1 October 2011.
Valery Morozov (Sale Sharks) and Andrey Ostrikov (FC Grenoble) are both starting and are the only players in the Bears’ 31-man squad that are attached to a rugby club outside of Russia.
None of the 23 players selected by Russia has ever been in a side that has won an international match against Japan.
Japan: 1 Keita Inagaki 2 Shota Horie 3 Asaelia Valu 4 Wimpie Van der Walt 5 James Moore 6 Michael Leith (C) 7 Pieter Labuschagne 8 Kazuki Himeno 9 Yutaka Nagare 10 Yu Tamura 11 Lomano Lemeki 12 Ryoto Nakamura 13 Timothy Lafaele 14 Kotaro Matsushima 15 Will Tupou 16 Atsushi Sakate 17 Isileli Nakajima 18 Ji-Won Koo 19 Luke Thompson 20 Hendrik Tui 21 Fumiaki Tanaka 22 Rikiya Matsuda 23 Ryohei Yamanka
Russia: 1.Valery Morozov 2. Stanislav Selskii 3. Kirill Gotovtsev 4. Andrey Ostrikov 5. Bogdan Fedotko 6. Vitaly Zhivatov 7. Tagir Gadzhiev 8. Nikita Vavilin 9. Vasily Dorofeev 10. Yury Kushnarev 11. Kirill Golosnitskiy 12. Dmitry Gerasimov 13. Vladimir Ostroushko 14. German Davydov 15. Vasily Artemyev (capt.) 16. Evgeny Matveev 17. Andrei Polivalov 18. Azamat Bitiev 19. Andrey Garbuzov 20. Anton Sychev 21. Dmitry Perov 22. Ramil Gaisin 23. Vladislav Sozonov