Kirwan recalls 13 for Tonga clash
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WHANGAREI, 19 Sept. - Japan coach John Kirwan has recalled 13 of the first XV that impressed against France for Wednesday's match with Tonga at Northland Events Centre.
The only players missing from the starting line-up that captivated the RWC audience on 10 September in the 47-21 loss to Les Bleus are the injured Ryukoliniasi Holani and Koji Taira.
Number 8 Holani has already been replaced in the squad by Toetsu Taufa, although centre Taira still has a chance of regaining fitness in time for Japan's final Pool A match, against Canada on 27 September at McLean Park in Napier.
Taira, who injured his left hamstring during the 83-7 loss to the All Blacks last Friday, is the fifth injury of the tournament for Kirwan's side. Second row Justin Ives, scrum half Tomoki Yoshida and centre Yuta Imamura have already left for home.
"We've got a lot of injuries at the moment - Ives, Holani, Tomoki, Imamura and Taira," Kirwan said on Monday. "Taira might have a shot the Canada game, but he did his hamstring in the All Blacks game.
"But the 30 of us make up the squad. I don't anticipate any problems. The players who have come in know their roles.
"The injuries are disappointing, but it's part of the World Cup. You just have to deal with it."
Japan and Tonga most recently met at the Pacific Nations Cup in July, with the Brave Blossoms winning 28-27 to capture the title for the first time.
However, New Zealander Kirwan expects Wednesday's clash in Whangarei to be a whole new game.
"This is the World Cup, so it'll be different from the PNC," Kirwan said. "I expect it to be a lot more aggressive, especially the first 20 to 30 minutes.
"Both of us have lost our first two games, so the match will be crucial for the two sides.