Faifili Levave
Faifili Levave comes into the Samoan lineup at number eight as they seek to assert a physical advantage AFP

The latest round of fixtures from Pool B will see Samoa and every neutral's favourite Japan attempt to keep their respective chances of qualifying for the quarter-finals afloat at Stadium mk in Milton Keynes.

Where to watch

Samoa vs Japan kicks off at 2.30pm BST on Saturday 3 October. Live coverage is available on ITV HD and BBC Radio Five Live.


In a refreshingly unpredictable Pool B, no team at the entire 2015 Rugby World Cup has provoked as much joy and adoration as Japan with that memorable last-gasp victory over southern hemisphere heavyweights South Africa on opening weekend. Things have settled down slightly for the Brave Blossoms since causing one of the most significant shocks in sporting history, with Eddie Jones' side given just three days to prepare for a fully rested Scotland. Another spirited first-half showing at Kingsholm gave cause for further optimism, but a key injury to influential number eight Amanaki Mafi rather opened the floodgates and saw them concede five tries in a 45-10 loss.

Japan have been afforded the luxury of eight days to develop a gameplan for Samoa, with five changes to the starting XV pointing to a desire for experienced heads. Chief playmaker Kesei Ono has been restored at fly-half, while namesake Hitoshi replaces New Zealand-born Justin Ives in the second row and Ryu Koliniasi Holani starts at the base of the pack. Mafi is deemed fit enough for a place on the bench as Kensuke Hatakeyama is picked at tighthead prop ahead of Hiroshi Yamashita. Akihito Yamada features on the right wing and a calculated backline reshuffle will see Harumichi Tatekawa move across to 12 and Kotaro Matsushima switch flanks.

Thanks partly to such giant-killing exploits, Samoa felt the full wrath of the wounded Springboks in their last encounter. Following a rather unconvincing victory over the United States, the Pacific Islanders appeared powerless to prevent a 46-6 defeat that featured a hat-trick of tries from JP Pietersen as well as efforts from Schalk Brits and Schalk Burger, in addition to veteran Bryan Habana.

With Scotland still to play, anything other than a confident win from this encounter will mean elimination at the pool stage for the fourth consecutive tournament. Head coach Stephen Betham has certainly picked a powerful side, restoring Kane Thompson at lock following his recent two-match suspension. Tusi Pisi is back in the number 10 jersey after Mike Stanley's disappointing showing at Villa Park, Ole Avei replaces Motu Matu'u as hooker and Faifili Levave is in at number eight. Sale's Johnny Leota is given the nod over Rey Lee-Lo in midfield and Jack Lam, cousin of former Samoan international Pat, misses out as captain Osifa Treviranus and TJ Ioane line up at blindside and openside flanker respectively.

Kosei Ono
Kosei Ono returns at fly-half for Japan AFP


Samoa: 15. Nanai-Williams, 14. K Pisi, 13. Perez, 12. Leota, 11. A Tuilagi, 10. T Pisi, 9. Fotuali'i, 8. Levave, 7. Ioane, 6. Treviranus (c), 5. Thompson, 4. Paulo, 3. Johnston, 2. Avei, 1. Taulafo

Replacements: 16. Matu'u, 17. Afatia, 18. Perenise, 19. Lam 20. V Tuilagi, 21. Afemai 22. Stanley, 23. Lee-Lo

Japan: 15. Goromaru, 14. Yamada, 13. Sau, 12. Tatekawa, 11. Matsushima, 10. K Ono, 9. Tanaka, 8. Holani, 7. Broadhurst, 6. Leitch (c), 5. H Ono, 4. Thompson, 3. Hatakeyama, 2. Horie, 1. Inagaki

Replacements: 16. Kizu, 17. Mikami, 18. Yamashita, 19. Ives, 20. Mafi, 21. Tui, 22. Hiwasa, 23. Hesketh

What the coaches say

Stephen Betham: "After reviewing our loss to South Africa, we were able to find some really positive aspects to our game – it can be easy to overlook these in the face of a very clinical Springboks side. We've also identified the areas where we needed a boost. We've selected the team that we believe has the best combination of skills, strength and experience to deliver us the results we are looking for against Japan.

"We have 10 players with between 20 and 51 Test caps so we also know we will have some very experienced men out there. This match is do or die for us. We do not for one moment assume anything. Japan threw this pool wide open and they have clearly become one of the favourites of the tournament. We're in no doubt that this match will be a massive challenge for us."

Eddie Jones: "It's the most experienced team to ever play for Japan. We know we've got a big task ahead of us. If we can stick with Samoa for the first 60, then for the last 20 we should be able to come home pretty well. They've picked an interesting team, they've left out their acknowledged fetcher and picked a very big back row. So there's no secret as to how they're going to play.

"The team is in excellent condition. The only thing we're worrying about is the injuries we got from the Scotland game. We just need to manage those injuries. But apart from that, the physical conditioning of the players is first class. We don't have any excuses for the game."

Eddie Jones
Eddie Jones has made five changes to his starting XV, relying on experienced players for a crucial match AFP

Other fixtures

Samoa vs Japan is the first of three World Cup pool fixtures scheduled for Saturday 3 October. South Africa are due to meet Scotland in Newcastle, while England face the prospect of an early elimination from their home tournament if they fail to beat Australia in the evening fixture at Twickenham.