Rugby-No ex-All Blacks to start for Samoa against Japan

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Premiership - Bristol Bears v Bath Rugby - Ashton Gate Stadium, Bristol, Britain - October 1, 2021 Bristol Bears' Steven Luatua scores their first try Action Images/John Sibley/File Photo

LYON, France (Reuters) -Samoa will start their Pool D clash against Japan in Toulouse on Thursday without any of their former All Blacks after coach Seilala Mapusua made four changes to the line-up that lost to Argentina last week.

Steven Luatua moved to the bench to make way for Sa Jordan Taufua at number eight, prop Charlie Faumuina dropped out of the matchday squad altogether and flyhalf Lima Sopoaga, who missed the Pumas clash with a calf strain, was again omitted.

"(It's) part of our game plan, Steven has played a lot of minutes for us over the last couple of months so we see him playing an effective role in the latter part of the game where we need some calm heads and experience," Mapusua explained in a news conference in Toulouse.

"With Charlie, he is carrying a little bit of an injury ... Lima is tracking along nicely with his rehab and recovery. He should be back available for selection following the game against Japan."

Mapusua has brought Ed Fidow onto the right wing in place of Nigel Ah Wong, while Alai D'Angelo Leuila slots in at inside centre to add a second kicking option with Tumua Manu shifting to the outside midfield spot.

Theo McFarland, outstanding in the opening win against Chile, moves back to lock after playing in the back row against Argentina with Taleni Seu rewarded for a fine performance off the bench last week with a start at blindside flanker.

Former Wallaby Christian Leali'ifano will continue to lead the backline from flyhalf as Samoa look to reprise their 24-22 victory over the Brave Blossoms in the Pacific Nations Cup earlier this year.

"We have seen an improvement in the Japanese team, we have also seen improvement in our own team," Mapusua said. "We can't really look too much to that game and that result.

"Japan are very well disciplined team and the changes that we have made we see as setting the style of play we want to play, as well as adding a bit more variety in our attack."

Team: 15-Duncan Paia'aua, 14-Ed Fidow, 13-Tumua Manu, 12-Alai D'Angelo Leuila, 11-Ben Lam, 10-Christian Leali'ifano, 9-Jonathan Taumateine, 8-Sa Jordan Taufua, 7-Fritz Lee, 6-Taleni Seu, 5-Theo McFarland, 4-Chris Vui (co-captain), 3-Paul Alo-Emile, 2-Seilala Lam, 1-James Lay

Replacements: 16-Sama Malolo, 17-Jordan Lay, 18-Michael Alaalatoa (co-captain), 19-Steven Luatua, 20-Alamanda Motuga, 21-Melani Matavao, 22-Neria Fomai, 23-Danny Toala.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Toby Davis)

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