Korea v Japan in Tokyo (WCQ Asia; Asia Five Nations)
Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground,
Referee: Tobias Lothian (Hong Kong)
[Manila, Philippines, 3 May 2013]: Japan and South Korea head into Saturday's game at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground as the only two unbeaten teams in the competition.
The Koreans opened their campaign with a 75-10 win over the United Arab Emirates and coach Park Ki Haeng is hoping the team can build on their good start.
"The first game is usually very difficult so of course we were happy to win especially on the road," he said. "We are trying to adapt to a new pattern of play and this was really the first test for that style of play so we were a bit disjointed early on.
“In the last 20 minutes I thought we were showing some of the results of our training and that the pattern of play we were attempting was paying off in terms of tries. However, we still have far to go in our improvement. We left a lot of points on the park on the day through unforced errors."
Park's side knows plenty about Saturday's opposition with 11 of the squad earning their living in Japan's Top League.
"Of these 11, nine are in the forwards with seven of them starting against Japan," he said. "It is very important to have the Japan-based players. They add a lot of experience and individual skill and they are also helping to lead the team from within."
New Zealander Lee Smith is working with the team as a consultant and Park said the Koreans are trying to incorporate some New Zealand techniques to the traditional Korean game.
"At the same time we ultimately want to have a tailor-made Korean style. We have our strengths and are now trying to combine or blend styles to suit us better and reflect Korean rugby as a whole," he said.
Japan, meanwhile, followed up their 121-0 hammering of the Philippines with a labored 38-0 victory over Hong Kong.
Coach Eddie Jones, however, said the game in Hong Kong was exactly what his team needed, given the easy ride they were given in the opener. Jones on Thursday named a 23-man squad that showed plenty of changes from the side that played last weekend.
The starting XV shows seven changes and one positional switch with Takashi Kikutani, who will lead the side in the absence of Toshiaki Hirose, moving from No. 8 to flanker.
"He has contributed a lot since coming back into the squad and deserves the honour," Jones said of Kikutani, who led Japan at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
There is an all-new front row with Hiroki Yuhara back in the squad and Takuma Asahara and Kensuke Hatakeyama both promoted from the bench.
Elsewhere in the pack, Justin Ives and Ryu Koliniasi Holani will also take to the field at the kick-off, after starting last week among the replacements.
"It's not performance related. We just wanted some fresh legs in the pack," Jones said. "It also means the players that have done well such as Hiroshi Yamashita and Shinya Makabe can come off the bench and finish the game."
The two changes in the backline see Kenki Fukuoka and Yoshikazu Fujita named on the wings.
"We needed a right wing with Hirose out injured and Fujita is the best player in that position at the moment," Jones said, adding that Hirose would probably be out for 3-4 weeks with a hamstring strain.
GWC Rugby Rankings
Asia Table-Japan 1st, Korea 2nd
IRB Ranking Points
Japan 70.09, Korea 56.72
Prediction: Japan by 48 points
|15||Kim, Keun Hyun|
|13||Yoo, Chul Kyu|
|12||Kim, Nam Uk|
|11||Kim, Gwong Min|
|10||Oh, Youn Hyung|
|9||Park, Wan Young|
|8||Hwang, In Jo|
|7||Park, Soon Chai|
|6||You, Young Nam|
|5||Youn, Kwon Woo|
|4||Lee, Kwang Moon|
|2||Park, Sung Ku|
|1||Kim, Kwang Sik|
|16||Kim, Min Kyu|
|17||Jung, Sung Un|
|18||Cho, Jin Hyun|
|19||Kim, Jeong Min|
|20||Yang, Young Hun|
|21||Oh, Ji Myeong|
|22||Jang, Seong Min|
|23||Kwon, Jung Hyek|
|HEAD COACH: Park, Ki Haeng|
|14||Yoshikazu Fujita||Waseda University|
|8||Koliniashi Ryu Holani||Panasonic|
|6||Takashi Kikutani (Capt.)||Toyota|
|HEAD COACH: Eddie Jones|