A really important match in Pool D as the winner of Japan vs Samoa on Thursday at 8pm (UK time) will keep their hopes of qualification for the knockout stages alive.
The match will take place at Stadium de Toulouse with both nations currently on one win and one loss in their respective campaigns. Three wins will probably be necessary to progress to the knockouts, and with Argentina also on one win and one loss, the competition is fierce to qualify alongside England.
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Japan vs Samoa preview
These two nations sit side-by-side in the World Rugby rankings, with Samoa just ahead of Japan in 12th.
However, in terms of progress at recent World Cups it is Japan who reached the knockout stages in 2019, albeit that tournament was held on home soil.
Indeed, Samoa’s performance on the top level has declined in stages since quarter-final appearances in 1991 and 1995. They only won two matches per pool stage from 1999 to 2011 and since then only won one pool stage match in 2015 and 2019.
The rule changes allowing former internationals to come back and play for their nation of birth has helped to strengthen the Samoan squad ahead of this World Cup and it will be hoped that the likes of former Wallaby Chrisian Leali’ifano can help Samoa back to the quarter-finals.
It seems likely to be a closely fought encounter that could go either way. Samoa may just have the edge over the course of 80 minutes on this occasion.
Japan XV: Lomano Lemeki; Kotaro Matsushima, Dylan Riley, Ryoto Nakamura, Jone Naikabula; Rikiya Matsuda, Yutaka Nagare; Keita Inagaki, Shota Horie, Jiwon Gu; Jack Cornelsen, Amato Fakatava; Michael Leitch, Pieter Labuschagne, Kazuki Himeno (captain)
Replacements: Atsushi Sakate, Craig Millar, Asaeli Ai Valu, Warner Dearns, Kanji Shimokawa, Naoto Saito, Seungsin Lee, Tomoki Osada
Samoa XV: Duncan Paia’aua; Ed Fidow, Tumua Manu, Alai D’Angelo Leuila, Ben Lam; Christian Leali’ifano, Jonathan Taumateine; James Lay, Seilala Lam, Paul Alo-Emile; Chris Vui (captain), Theo McFarland; Taleni Junior Agaese Seu, Fritz Lee, Sa Jordan Taufua
Replacements: Sama Malolo, Jordan Lay, Michael Alaalatoa, Steven Luatua, Alamanda Motuga, Melani Matavao, Neria Fomai, Danny Toala
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