TOKYO – Japan will have to play the opening match of the Rugby World Cup against Russia on Friday without two of their key players – winger Kenki Fukuoka and loose forward Amanaki Mafi – after the pair failed to recover from injury in time.
Both players sustained injuries in the loss to South Africa earlier this month.
Fukuoka, who has scored 21 tries in 34 tests, went down with a calf injury early in that game whilst Mafi later suffered a shoulder injury.
Coach Jamie Joseph has selected maverick Lomano Lemeki as Fukuoka’s replacement and is hoping the 30-year-old has learnt from an erratic display in the recent win over Tonga.
“Mano, last time when he played Tonga, we felt he played reasonably well but there were opportunities he could have created for others and his decision-making was a wee bit off,” Joseph told reporters on Wednesday.