Head coach Jamie Joseph has named the Japan team for their Test against the British & Irish Lions at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Captain Michael Leitch is joined in a star-studded loose trio by fellow flank Lappies Labuschagne and No 8 Amanaki Mafi.
James Moore and Wimpie van der Walt line up at lock behind props Koo Ji-won and Keita Inagaki, with Atsushi Sakate starting at hooker.
Kaito Shigeno and Yu Tamura have been partnered in the halfback axis while the midfield duo are Ryoto Nakamura and Timothy Lafaele.
There’s star quality in the back three, too, where lethal Kotaro Matsushima starts on the wing alongside Siosaia Fifita and Ryohei Yamanaka.
Commenting on his selections, Joseph said: “This is a strong Japanese team combining a solid foundation of experience, with some exciting new players who have earned the right to represent Japan at Test-match level. We will field a strong, competitive team on Saturday while also taking the opportunity to blood new players as we look ahead to Rugby World Cup.
“Six Nations teams play around a strong set piece, and this is where the Lions will look to pressure us. We have picked a team with this in mind and which is capable of putting pressure back on to the opposition and taking our opportunities to score points when they come.
“There is a great spirit among the team and a collective excitement ahead of Saturday’s match. Playing the Lions for the first time holds huge significance for Japanese rugby and, as a team, we’re looking forward to once again be playing on the world stage and to be taking on a team with the unique strength and history of the Lions.”
Japan were one of the 2019 World Cup’s star attractions with their entertaining brand of rugby, claiming four wins from four in a pool that included Ireland, Scotland, Samoa and Russia. They would go on to lose to eventual tournament-winners South Africa in the quarter-finals.
Japan – 15 Ryohei Yamanaka, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Siosaia Fifita, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Kaito Shigeno, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Michael Leitch, 5 James Moore, 4 Wimpie van der Walt, 3 Koo Ji-won, 2 Atsushi Sakate, 1 Keita Inagaki.
Subs: 16 Kosuke Horikoshi, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 Jack Cornelsen, 20 Kazuki Himeno, 21 Tevita Tatafu, 22 Naoto Saito, 23 Rikiya Matsuda.
Photo: Getty Images