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Late call-ups Shimokawa, Fakatava start for Japan against Chile

PARIS - Late squad call-ups Kanji Shimokawa and Amato Fakatava will both start Japan's opening Pool D match against World Cup debutants Chile in Toulouse on Sunday.

Flanker Shimokawa, who has played two tests, and lock Fakatava, who made his debut in this year's Pacific Nations Cup, were called into the squad last week when coach Jamie Joseph dropped Uwe Helu and Shogo Nakano due to "conditioning issues".

Shimokawa gets his chance at openside flanker in the absence of Pieter Labuschagne, who is serving a two-match ban for a dangerous tackle in Japan's final Pacific Nations Cup match against Fiji in early August.

Tonga-born Fakatava was a standout in that disappointing campaign and joins Jack Cornelsen in the second row despite playing most of his club rugby as a flanker.

In the backline, Rikiya Matsuda is preferred to Lee Seung-sin at flyhalf and free-scoring Semisi Masirewa moves to fullback with Kotaro Matsushima taking his place on the wing.

The experienced Ryoto Nakamura got the nod at inside centre instead of in-form rookie Tomoki Osada, who drops to the bench despite a fine Pacific Nations Cup campaign.

Lomano Lava Lemeki was included as cover for the backs on the bench, offering the former Sevens international the chance to earn his first test cap since the 2019 World Cup.

Japan's run to the quarter-finals of that tournament captured the hearts of a nation but their form this year has suggested they will do well to match it in France.The Brave Blossoms were beaten 42-21 by Italy in their final warm-up and they also lost at home to Samoa and Fiji in the Pacific Nations Cup.

A convincing win over the Chileans at Stadium de Toulouse on Sunday is essential given the pool also includes former champions England and twice semi-finalists Argentina.

Japan team: 15-Semisi Masirewa, 14-Kotaro Matsushima, 13-Dylan Riley, 12-Ryoto Nakamura, 11-Jone Naikabula, 10-Rikiya Matsuda, 9-Yutaka Nagare, 8-Kazuki Himeno (captain), 7-Kanji Shimokawa, 6-Michael Leitch, 5-Amato Fakatava, 4-Jack Cornelsen, 3-Koo Ji-won, 2-Atsushi Sakate, 1-Keita Inagaki

Replacements: 16-Shota Horie, 17-Craig Millar, 18-Asaeli Ai Valu, 19-Warner Dearns, 20-Shota Fukui, 21-Naoto Saito, 22-Tomoki Osada, 23-Lomano Lava Lemeki. REUTERS