Japan head into their final game of this year’s Asia Rugby Championship knowing they need just a bonus point to secure their 10th straight title since the competition became an annual affair.
But they will be up against a Hong Kong side that will have gained a great deal of confidence from their 29-17 defeat in Tokyo last weekend.
Japan head coach Jamie Joseph spent a large part of the work fulfilling media duties before and after Wednesday’s Rugby World Cup draw in Kyoto.
But he ensured the team trained close by in Shiga Prefecture before they flew out of Kansai Airport for Hong Kong on Thursday.
The side that Joseph took with him showed eight changes from the team that won last week.
Yutaka Nagare returns to the starting XV and leads the side from scrumhalf, where he is partnered by Takuya Yamasawa with Ryota Nakamura and Kanta Shikao in the midfield.2
Amanaki Lotoahea is named on the left wing, with Akihito Yamada on the right and Ryuji Noguchi at fullback.
Tighthead prop Takayuki Watanabe returns to pack down with Shintaro Ishihara and Atsushi Sakate in the front row, Kotaro Yatabe and Samuela Anise form the engine room and Yoshitaka Tokunaga, Naoki Ozawa and Shuhei Matsuhashi link up at the back of the scrum.
There is one potential new cap on the bench in back-up hooker Kosuke Horikoshi
Kohei Asahori, Yu Chinen, Yuya Odo, Malgene Ilaua and Shokei Kin are the other reserve forwards with Kaito Shigeno and Rikiya Matsuda providing the cover for the backs.
Hong Kong coach Leigh Jones, meanwhile, has kept changes to a minimum following their impressive opener.
Ben Roberts leads the side from hooker and is part of an unchanged front five with props Ben Higgins and Dylan Rogers and locks James Cunningham and Adrian Griffiths.
“We know Japan will be hurting a bit after last week and we have already heard that they have been focusing a lot on the scrum in their training, so we’re expecting a much tougher challenge,” said Rogers. “Eliminating those individual errors that held us back last week will be a key to our chances.”
There are two changes in the back row with experienced flankers Nick Hewson and Matt Lamming returning to the starting XV to partner Dan Falvey, who shifts to No. 8.
In the backs, Ally Maclay is promoted from the bench and starts on the left wing and Alex McQueen comes in at fullback to join Salom Yiu Kam-shing in the back three.
Scrumhalf Jamie Hood and flyhalf Matt Rosslee, who both impressed last week, play at 9 and 10, respectively, with Lex Kaleca and Tyler Spitz in the centres.
JW Markley, Jack Parfitt and Angus Dixon provide the front-row cover with Kyle Sullivan and Thomas Lamboley the two other reserve forwards and Cado Lee Ka-to, Charles Higson-Smith and Ben Rimene the replacement backs.