England reach World Cup quarters after Japan beat 14-man Samoa

Ben Lam (right) is red carded for a high tackle to the head of Japan's Pieter Labuschagne
Ben Lam (right) is red carded for a high tackle to the head of Japan's Pieter Labuschagne - Getty Images/Paul Harding

England, fresh from a four-day break in northern France, have become the second team behind Wales to officially qualify for the quarter-finals of the World Cup ahead of their final pool match by dint of Japan’s victory over Samoa in Toulouse on Thursday night.

Steve Borthwick’s side, who face Samoa in their final pool D match next week, are now on course to face Fiji in the quarter-finals in Marseille.

Japan’s three-try victory ensured that England will finish their qualifying campaign as pool winners following victories over Argentina, Japan and Chile.

It was the perfect result for Borthwick’s squad, who have only just returned to training after the players were given four days off following their bonus-point win over Chile.

England can now go into their final match against Samoa in Lille on Oct 7 without the pressure of needing a result, allowing their preparations to be tailored entirely for the quarter-finals.

The prospect of reaching the semi-finals in Paris represents a remarkable turnaround for Borthwick’s side, who struggled through their World Cup warm-up campaign with defeats by Wales, Ireland and Fiji.

Fiji, who defeated England at Twickenham last month, can secure their place in the last eight – and eliminate Australia in the process – if they can secure a bonus-point win over Georgia on Saturday.

Japan took full advantage of the red card shown to Ben Lam, a nephew of Bristol’s director of rugby Pat Lam, for a head-on-head tackle in the second half, although they came agonisingly close to letting a 25-8 lead slip during a rousing final quarter by Samoa.

Japan, who had their hooker Shota Horie shown a yellow card for a similar incident in the first half, scored tries through Pieter Labuschagne, Michael Leitch and Kazuki Himeno, while Rikiya Matsuda landed three penalties and two conversions.

Samoa, however, threatened to snatch victory at the death after tries by Lam, Duncan Paia’aua and Christian Lealiifano.

Japan beat 14-man Samoa: as it happened

10:25 PM BST

Japan players celebrate

The players of Japan bow to show their support to the fans at full-time
The players of Japan bow to show their support to the fans at full-time - Getty Images/Pauline Ballet
Japan players bow to their fans
Japan players bow to their fans - AFP/Lionel Bonaventure
Lomano Lemeki and Naoto Saito embrace at full-time
Lomano Lemeki and Naoto Saito embrace at full-time - Getty Images/Pauline Ballet

10:13 PM BST

Jamie Joseph: 'Argentina is our grand final'

That’s our grand final isn’t it. We get an opportunity to play a tier one team. I know our guys are going to be really up for that game - it’s going to be a tough one.

10:12 PM BST

Japan coach Jamie Joseph

It’s a big win for us - that was a really tough game.

I tip my hat off to the Samoan boys - they really took it to us.

They’re big fellas aren’t they and they got on top of us a lot.

In terms of commitment, the boys were there. We have to work on a few things for the next match.

10:08 PM BST

Player of the match Japan wing Lomano Lemeki:

It’s unbelievable. I thought the dream was long gone two years ago.

These camps have been really tough.

It seems to be working. We put a lot of effort into this game.

Its knockout footy for us now. The next step is Argentina.

10:01 PM BST

England through to the quarter-finals

As a result of Japan’s victory, England are now guaranteed a place in the quarter-finals.

09:58 PM BST

80 min JPN 28 SAM 22

It’s all over!

Samoa’s line-out - which fired so well in the first half - fails to go to hand, and Japan gather.

The Brave Blossoms get the ball into Saito’s hands and the scrum-half thumps it into touch.

It was a heroic effort from Samoa to pull the score back to within a try despite being a man down. But it was not to be.

The final score in Stade de Toulouse: Japan 28 - 22 Samoa.

Japan's Craig Millar celebrates after Kazuki Himeno scores
Japan's Craig Millar celebrates after Kazuki Himeno scores - Reuters/Stephane Mahe

09:53 PM BST

80 min JPN 28 SAM 22

Samoa penalty at the breakdown! It looked a tough call from Peyper, who penalised the Japanese player for having his hands on the floor, but Samoa won’t mind.

They clear up into the Japanese half for a line-out.

09:52 PM BST

79 min JPN 28 SAM 22

With one minute to go, Samoa are suddenly in range of both winning and scoring a bonus point try.

They will have to go from deep, but there is everything to play for!

09:51 PM BST

TRY SAMOA! 77 min JPN 28 SAM 22

If you can’t go round, just go through, as I’m sure the old Samoan proverb goes.

They recycle from the quick tap and get it to Leali’ifano, of all people, as a one-out runner.

Despite his unique lack of physicality in this Samoan side, the fly-half puts his head down, makes like his team-mates, and dives low between two Japanese defenders to score.

He then converts his own try.

09:49 PM BST

TRY SAMOA! 77 min JPN 28 SAM 15

The lineout ball is messy due to a Japan knock-on, but Samoa regather and clatter through tackles in midfield.

They drive up to the Japan five, and both sides look dead on their feet.

After an obstruction by Samoa, the ball is brought back for an off-side penalty, and they tap and go quickly.

09:47 PM BST

76 min JPN 28 SAM 15

With four minutes to go, Samoa force a scrum penalty and kick to the corner for one more tilt at the line.

It may only be a consolation prize, but it will mean everything for the morale of this Samoan side.

09:46 PM BST

75 min JPN 28 SAM 15

With a deep exhale and a twitchy splay of the fingers - everyone has their own technique - Matsuda strides up to kick another penalty.

Surely it is now too late for Samoa?

09:45 PM BST

75 min JPN 25 SAM 15

The dogged Samoan defence holds firm for now, flying up to repel the Japanese as they look to play and causing havoc at the breakdown.

Again though, it is ill-discipline that lets Samoa down. They are penalised for going off their feet, and Matsuda has a simple shot at goal from right in front.

09:43 PM BST

73 min JPN 25 SAM 15

Samoa play off the scrum and clear to touch through Leali’ifano.

It’s not a good kick though and doesn’t travel further than the 22.

Japan now have another good platform from which to launch an assault at the Samoan line.

09:42 PM BST

71 min JPN 25 SAM 15

Tremendous effort from Samoa.

Japan were pitched on their line, a man up, and with a seemingly well-set maul. But Samoa’s defence dug in, latching onto the ball and forcing the turnover.

With less than ten minutes to go, they are not out of fight just yet.

09:40 PM BST

67 min JPN 25 SAM 15

If Samoa can sustain this route one technique for the next 12 minutes, they may yet find a way back into this game.

For now though, Japan win a free-kick on half-way and drive the scrum. Again they get the shunt on and win an advantage.

Instead of keeping it at the back they opt to ship it through the hands and find some joy on the left wing. Naikabula puts in a clever chip over the final defender and regathers, driving up deep into the Samoan 22.

The tackler is penalised for lying on the wrong side, and Japan kick to the corner for a five-metre line-out.

09:37 PM BST

TRY SAMOA! 64 min JPN 25 SAM 15

Samoa work hard here, going for a more robust approach to bash through a tiring Japanese defence.

Inside the 22, McFarlane bumps one defender to get on the outside shoulder before showing off his skillset with an out-the-back offload to release his outside man.

Samoa recycle quickly at the breakdown and move it to Duncan Paia’aua, who gets beyond Matsushima to score in the left corner.

Leali’ifano rediscovers his kicking boots and brings Samoa back to within 10 points.

That could yet prove a crucial moment for Samoa at this World Cup.

09:33 PM BST


The ball is called back.

There is a knock-on by Japan in the build-up, caused by a desperate challenge from Samoan replacement Alaalatoa.

A lucky escape for Samoa who win a midfield scrum.

09:32 PM BST

TRY JAPAN! 62 min JPN 25 SAM 8

Sure enough, the game opens up.

After a back and forth, the ball ends up in the hands of Matsushima who finds himself in space and escapes the grips of the final defender to score a bonus point try.

Or is it! The try is being checked by the TMO.

Matsushima (left) breaks to score but the try is disallowed for a knock-on
Matsushima (left) breaks to score but the try is disallowed for a knock-on - AFP/Valentine Chapuis

09:31 PM BST

59 min JPN 25 SAM 8

Samoa bust in midfield for their first clean break of the match through Tumua Manu.

He races up to the Japan full-back and tries to offload, but it looks like the ball came in just too late and it goes behind a charging McFarland, who knocks on.

It suddenly looks like the break is on for Japan on the right flank, but as they move it back the other way they are bundled into touch.

Off the lineout, the ball spills free to Japan who break again, creating a one-on-one with the Samoan last defender. The Samoan player does well though and again gets the man into touch.

The speed of the game has just stepped up a notch as Samoa throw everything but the kitchen sink at trying to get back into this game.

09:27 PM BST

58 min JPN 25 SAM 8

Japan have total momentum as they play in-field, but feisty work at the breakdown from replacement Motuga gives his side a let off.

09:26 PM BST

56 min JPN 25 SAM 8

Japan win another penalty at the breakdown after a sharp low tackle followed by a jackle from Nakamura.

Peyper receives some back chat and marches Samoa 10 metres backwards before having a word with the captain about his side’s discipline.

The last thing Samoa need is another silly yellow card.

09:24 PM BST

54 min JPN 25 SAM 8

Japan scrum penalty!

Samoa were dominant at the set-piece in the first half, but Japan appear to have turned the tables here too.

Matsuda kicks the penalty, and the camera pans to Japanese fans who are in raptures at their side’s success.

09:22 PM BST

52 min JPN 22 SAM 8

There are glimmers of frustration here for Samoa, with tensions seemingly on the brink of flaring.

They must keep their heads cool if they are to turn this around.

Peyper looks to set a scrum for the third time. Japan will surely look to use their extra man to stretch the Samoan defence.

09:19 PM BST

Red card Samoa

As expected, Ben Lam’s yellow card has been upgraded in the bunker.

Samoa, already on the back foot, will play the rest of this game with 14 men.

Ben Lam's high tackle is upgraded to a red in the bunker
Ben Lam's high tackle is upgraded to a red in the bunker - Getty Images/Paul Harding

09:17 PM BST

TRY JAPAN! 48 min JPN 22 SAM 8

Japan play Samoa at their own game, opting for the driving maul at the lineout.

It’s a fairly straightforward set-up as they go to the front. But the speed of the set is good and they get it moving forwards qucikly.

With Samoa wary of giving away another penalty, they appear to back-off, and Japan pounce to drive it over with the captain Himeno touching down.

Matsuda misses his first conversion of the World Cup.

09:15 PM BST

47 min JPN 17 SAM 8

Japan kick for the corner and then win another penalty for Samoa swimming up the side of the maul It’s Steven Luatua who is penalised.

Samoa need to be careful now that they don’t lose any more players to the bin.

09:14 PM BST

46 min JPN 17 SAM 8

It looked a full-blooded tackle in real time, and on replay, it appears to be a sure red card.

Lam is upright and piles his shoulder into the opposition player’s head with force.

It’s an attempt to get a big shot in with his team on the back foot, but it’s a foolish challenge by Lam and is clearly dangerous.

He goes to the bunker, while Horie returns for Japan. This does not bode well for Samoa.

09:11 PM BST

45 min JPN 17 SAM 8

Japan move it a couple passes away from the ruck each way, just looking to probe this Samoa defence, testing it for any signs of weakness.

Eventually they get their opportunity, as Samoa are caught narrow, giving Japan space on the right flank.

But there’s another TMO call, this time for a tackle by Ben Lam...

09:10 PM BST

44 min JPN 17 SAM 8

Taumateine, who is seemingly involved in everything at the moment, is penalised for tackling a man without the ball.

Japan clear for a lineout between the opposition 10-metre line and 22.

09:09 PM BST

43 min JPN 17 SAM 8

Japan land one a bit more successfully this time, and Taumateine is thumped just as he catches it.

But Samoa ruck well and move it to Leali’ifano who knocks an impressive 50-22.

Though on their fifth visit to the 22, they again fail to come away with points. Samoa’s supporters go beyond the ball, leaving Japan to make an easy breakdown turnover.

Samoa must tighten up in this area if they are to match the speed of Japan.

09:06 PM BST

42 min JPN 17 SAM 8

Japan put in a clever reverse box kick to put pressure on Samoa full-back Paia’aua.

In the end, it is too easy for the full-back who calls the mark then thumps it up-field for a Japan lineout inside their own half.

Off the lineout, Japan go to the boot again with the box kick. Clearly it is a tactic they have devised, but they will have to execute better than that.

09:05 PM BST

41 min JPN 17 SAM 8

We’re back under way here.

Samoa gather the ball but knock-on. Japan scrum.

Jonathan Taumateine returns to the field for Samoa, having served his time in the sin bin.

09:03 PM BST

The yellow card remains yellow

Jaco Peyper explains to the Japanese captain that the yellow card is not being upgraded because the level of danger was low.

Shota Horie will come back on when his yellow card expires.

08:58 PM BST

What about the yellow?

We should know whether Shota Horie’s yellow card has been upgraded by the time the two teams come out.

Whatever decision the bunker makes could have a defining impact on this match.

Japan hooker Shota Horie is shown a yellow card for making head-to-head contact
Japan hooker Shota Horie is shown a yellow card for making head-to-head contact - Getty Images/Paul Harding

08:54 PM BST


A funny back-and-forth sort of half.

After a relatively slow start, Japan began to put some zip on the ball, as is their default, and created opportunities down the opposition flanks.

Their quick ruck-speed had Samoa back-pedaling, and they went over in the corner for break-away tries from both Labuschagne and Leitch.

Samoa, with a man in the bin and two tries down, looked close to being down and out. But with just minutes to go before the break, they rallied, forcing a good turnover to have a go at the Japan defence from inside the opposition half.

The ensuing yellow card after a clumsy Japanese tackle gave them the opening they were looking for, and this time they pounced on the opportunity.

Japan will be disappointed they were unable to hold out. Meanwhile, Samoa, despite their late optimism, will have to find another gear if they are to get into the game in this second half.

The scores at the break: Japan 17 - 8 Samoa.

08:47 PM BST

SAMOA TRY! 36 min JPN 17 SAM 8

Samoa strike back!

With a man in the bin and two scores down, Samoa were up against it there.

But a yellow card for Japan, and the momentum may have swung back the other way.

Samoa kick for the corner off the ensuing penalty and revert to their tried-and-tested driving maul.

They get set well, the backs pile in, and they drive it over. A simple try in the end.

Leali’fano takes over kicking duties but can’t hit the mark.

08:44 PM BST

36 min JPN 17 SAM 3

Japan hooker Shota Horie stands upright in the tackle and clearly makes direct head contact with the ball-carrying Samoa player.

It’s clearly not deliberate, but he gets himself in a dangerous position and it’s a clumsy challenge.

It will now be up to the power of the bunker officials to decide his fate.

Samoa kick for the corner and have a five-metre lineout.

08:42 PM BST

35 min JPN 17 SAM 3

TMO reviewing a head contact decision...

08:41 PM BST

35 min JPN 17 SAM 3

Samoa look to strike back straightaway, moving the ball through the hands with pace and purpose after scoring a good turnover.

The left wing dribbles a kick through which he looks to chase but is cut off by his Japanese opposite number.

The ball goes dead, and the crowd don’t like it, calling for a penalty against Japan for obstruction. It looks like the player knew what he was doing, buy it was well-disguised.

Japan have a goal-line dropout.

08:39 PM BST

TRY JAPAN! 31 min JPN 17 SAM 3

Japan look very sharp off the set piece, and they get their reward once again.

The Brave Blossoms scrum-half snipes from the base, and they put it through the hands to the right wing.

Samoa scrum-half Taumateine is penalised as his side retreat for taking a player out off the ball, but it proves ineffective.

Japan swing it back the other way before putting in a beautiful lofted pass to beat the rush defence that lands the hands of Leitch.

The veteran flanker dives early to go over in the left corner.

Matsuda continues his remarkable 100 per cent kicking record off the tee this World Cup.

Meanwhile Taumateine is yellow-carded for his infringement. Worrying signs for Samoa.

08:35 PM BST

30 min JPN 10 SAM 3

Samoa win the ball back and choose to go to the skies themselves.

Leali’ifano hoists a huge up-and under onto the advancing Japan fullback.

The chase is good from Samoa, but a flapping arm knocks-on. Japan scrum just inside their own half.

08:33 PM BST

29 min JPN 10 SAM 3

Off the kick chase, Samoa go off their feet at the breakdown - this time it is Lam who is penalised - and Japan have the opportunity to clear their lines.

Samoa must keep cool heads here. One can understand the desire to win the ball back, but overzealous rucking in the opposition half has cost them a few times now.

08:32 PM BST

28 min JPN 10 SAM 3

The kick is good, and Japan regain their seven-point advantage.

Japan's fly-half Rikiya Matsuda continues his perfect record off the kicking tee
Japan's fly-half Rikiya Matsuda continues his perfect record off the kicking tee - AFP/Valentine Chapuis

08:32 PM BST

27 min JPN 7 SAM 3

Japan hit the ball up beyond halfway and earn themselves a series of penalties.

The first is for no release, then off-feet, then killing the ball at the breakdown. Japan aim for the sticks.

Having just got points back, Samoa’s ill-discipline could set them back once again here.

08:30 PM BST

24 min JPN 7 SAM 3

Japan work in-field off the scrum and hit the centre channel.

But it’s good work at the breakdown from Samoa, who force the penalty.

This time the ball’s more or less straight in front, making it a no-brainer for the kicker.

Interestingly, Samoa continue with Leuila’s powerful boot rather than opting for Leali’ifano, who had a torrid time off the tee against Argentina.

The big centre gives it a whack, and Samoa have three points of their own.

08:27 PM BST

21 min JPN 7 SAM 0

Samoa go blind off the scrum to Lam, giving the winger a one-on-one.

Scrum-half Taumateine disguises the pass well, throwing it behind his back, but it appears to hoodwink his own player who knocks on.

A let off for Japan, who have a scrum and will look to clear.

08:25 PM BST

19 min JPN 7 SAM 0

Samoa execute a bold lineout move, throwing to the back before switching the point to the middle, but it is well read by Japan who manage a quick sack.

Samoa win a free-kick for Japan getting their numbers wrong at the lineout. Not a call we’ve heard too often at this World Cup.

Samoa scrum on the opposition five.

08:23 PM BST

19 min JPN 7 SAM 0

Samoa win a free-kick at the scrum and opt for another scrum.

They clearly feel they have the advantage at the set piece, and they prove it by winning a penalty.

It seems sensible to opt for the posts here, but they gamble and kick for the corner.

Samoa line-out, five metres out to the left.

08:22 PM BST

16 min JPN 7 SAM 0

Samoa batter the Japanese line around halfway, making little progress.

Eventually, the embattled Japan defence give away a penalty for off-side.

It’s the sort of outcome Samoa were hoping for, but it required a lot of effort to get their reward.

They then fail to captialise by losing the ball at the lineout to give Japan a scrum. Samoa will need to tighten up and show a little more creativity in their attack.

08:19 PM BST

TRY JAPAN! 14 min JPN 7 SAM 0

The Brave Blossoms spring into life off their own wide-right scrum.

They move the ball accurately and efficiently through the hands to the outside centre channel.

Samoa then fall off a tackle, allowing Japan to burst up to the five-metre line.

The ball is then recycled quickly and ends up in the hands of Labuschagne, who rides one tackle before reaching over the line.

It looks as if there may have been some crossing, but Peyper and the TMO rule the try is good.

The conversion goes over, and Japan lead.

08:16 PM BST

13 min JPN 0 SAM 0

This time Samoa look to play off their lineout by shipping it out the back.

But the Japanese defence is wise to it and rushes up to cut off the overlap.

Samoa bash off a couple of tackles but the ball eventually goes to ground and it’s a Japan scrum.

08:15 PM BST

11 min JPN 0 SAM 0

Japan have the second fastest ruck-speed at the World Cup so far and will continue to look to speed up the game where they can against a highly physical Samoa side.

08:14 PM BST

10 min JPN 0 SAM 0

Japan go for a quick lineout now and worm thir way inside the opposition 10.

They whip it through the hands for the firs time and get it to Michael Leitch - the big flanker who is lurking on the left wing.

They look dangerous for the first time, cranking up the ruck speed to move inside the opposition 22.

But they are stopped by a penalty at the breakdown for holding on.

Samoa clear to halfway.

08:12 PM BST

8 min JPN 0 SAM 0

Japan kick again from the lineout and lend on Ben Lam, but he’s a big man and not afraid of throwing his weight around.

He bashes through one and Samoa clear.

When Japan launch it back, McFarland makes a mistake and the ball goes free for Japan’s fullback Lemeki to catch.

As Japan look to go wide, Samoa nearly have an intercept but the ball is knocked on.

Japan scrum. It feel as if the game may have just flickered into life.

08:09 PM BST

6 min JPN 0 SAM 0

Japan win a lineout on half-way.

They play into midfield and bash just inside the Samoa half.

They look a little flat in attack though, from a technical perspective, and don’t make a huge amount of progress.

Eventually they opt for a high bomb on Ben Lam, who calls the mark and clears beyond halfway.

08:07 PM BST

5 min JPN 0 SAM 0

But Japan regain possession as Samoa are ruled to have obstructed the defence.

It has been good defence from the Brave Blossoms so far, and they will now have the opportunity to mount an attack of their own.

Early change for Samoa as flanker Taleni Seu limps off to be replaced by Brian Alainu’uese.

08:06 PM BST

3 min JPN 0 SAM 0

Samoa get a well-set drive going off the lineout and march inside the Japan 22.

Leali’ifano opts to kick and the ball bounces eventually into Japanese hands, and they opt to clear.

Samoa regather again just inside the opposition 10.

It has been all Samoa in these opening minutes.

08:04 PM BST

2 min JPN 0 SAM 0

A bold, early call from Samoa.

With the ball about 53 metres out and just to the right, centre D’Angelo Leuila opts to go for posts.

He had the accuracy, but the ball angles just under the bar. A good effort from that range.

Japan clear to touch for a Samoa lineout half-way between the ten and the 22.

08:02 PM BST

1 min JPN 0 SAM 0

Jaco Peyper blows his whistle, and we’re off!

Japan take on Samoa for the third time at the World Cup.

Samoa get us under way by kicking right before Japan box kick to halfway.

Samoa win an early penalty for Japan going off their feet at the ruck.

08:01 PM BST

The Siva Tau

There’s a final team talk for Samoa before their traditional war dance.

The last chance to discuss how they are going to approach this game before getting swept up in the action.

A rousing performance of the Siva Tau. Kick off is next!

07:57 PM BST

The anthems

Stern faces on the players of both teams during the anthems.

Let’s hope the emotions of the occasion don’t get to them.

Now, time to get fired up. It’s the Samoan Siva Tau!

07:56 PM BST

The teams are in the tunnel

Both sides are in the tunnel, with Samoa singing to get themselves in the mood before they march out.

A couple of players stop to pray on the touchline.

Already there is the sense of what is on the line here for both teams.

A shot at the quarter-finals beckons. Failing that, there is the prospect of automatic qualification for the next World Cup for whoever finishes third in the group behind England and Argentina.

Now, time for the anthems.

07:52 PM BST

And for Japan

Japan team guide
Japan team guide

07:52 PM BST

Our Experts' view on Samoa's prospects and record

Samoa team guide
Samoa team guide

07:50 PM BST

Have your say

07:50 PM BST

Both sides can still make the knock-outs

Samoa have one bonus-point win and one defeat from their two Pool D matches so far and a victory on Thursday night would boost their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals for the first time since 1995.

But should they lose to Japan, who have the same record after two games, it would likely end their hopes of progressing as both teams battle with Argentina for a place in the last eight.

For a full break-down of who can progress to the quarter-finals from Pool D - including why England’s place is still not guaranteed - go here.

07:48 PM BST

Samoa call for 'performance we can be proud of'

Samoa assistant coach Andrew Goodman has called for “a performance we can be proud of” in tonight’s clash.

Despite their revamped squad and glimmers of star quality, especially from fly-half Christian Leali’ifano, it feels as if they are still yet to produce the sort of performance their players are capable of.

Yet their is cause to be optimistic, as there is still ever chance Samoa could reach the quarter-finals.

“It’s exciting how wide open the pool is with all the results,” said Goodman.

“Do or die is not the terminology we have used. We have talked about a performance we can be proud of.”

Both sides are coming off the back of a defeat after Japan were beaten 34-12 by group leaders England while Samoa lost 19-10 to Argentina.

Japan, who reached the quarter-finals for the first time four years ago as hosts, are expecting a special occasion.

Defence coach John Mitchell said: “It’s not just like any other Test match.

“It’s really important on both sides of the ball that we really do show our heart and how much it means to us, and how much this tournament is an opportunity to present a message to the next generation.”

07:44 PM BST

No ex-All Blacks start for Samoa

Samoa start without any of their former All Blacks as coach Seilala Mapusua makes four changes to the line-up that lost to Argentina last week.

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

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 centre slot.

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.

07:40 PM BST

Japan make two changes from last week

Lomano Lemeki makes a first start for Japan in almost two years as one of two changes to their side who lost 34-12 to England last week.

Lemeki came on early in that game at fullback for Semisi Masirewa who was forced off injured.

Joseph has made a second backline switch as Dylan Riley takes over from Tomoki Osada at outside centre, but the remainder of the team is unchanged.

Replacement flyhalf Seungsin Lee will make his World Cup debut if he comes off the bench and will hope to repeat the 17 points he scored against Samoa in Japan’s 24-22 defeat in July.

Wings Jone Naikabula and Kotaro Matsushima make up the back three with Lemeki, while Riley will partner Ryoto Nakamura in the midfield.

Fly-half Rikiya Matsuda has a 100 per cent success rate off the kicking tee in the World Cup, and lines up outside scrum-haof Yutaka Nagare.

Hooker Shota Horie packs down with props Keita Inagaki and Jiwon Gu. Jack Cornelsen and Amato Fakatava are the lock pairing, and flankers Michael Leitch and Pieter Labuschagne pack down alongside number eight and captain Kazuki Himeno.

“We felt we created pressure on England but we just weren’t good enough to put them away,” Joseph said. “We want to make sure that we get in a good position against Samoa but (this time) be good enough to get a result.”

07:22 PM BST

The teams


Starting XV:15-Lomano Lemeki, 14-Kotaro Matsushima, 13-Dylan Riley, 12-Ryoto Nakamura, 11-Jone Naikabula, 10-Rikiya Matsuda, 9-Naoto Saito, 1-Keita Inagaki, 2-Shota Horie, 3-Jiwon Gu, 4-Jack Cornelsen, 5-Amato Fakatava, 6-Michael Leitch, 7-Pieter Labuschagne, 8-Kazuki Himeno

Replacements: 16-Atsushi Sakate, 17-Craig Millar, 18-Asaeli Ai Valu, 19-Warner Dearns, 20-Kanji Shimokawa, 21-Kenta Fukuda, 22-Seungsin Lee, 23-Tomoki Osada


Starting XV: 15-Duncan Paia’aua, 14-Ed Fidow, 13-Tumua Manu, 12-D’Angelo Leuila, 11-Ben Lam, 10-Christian Leali’ifano, 9-Jonathan Taumateine, 1-James Lay, 2-Seilala Lam, 3-Paul Alo-Emile, 4-Steven Luatua, 5-Theo McFarland, 6-Taleni Seu, 7-Fritz Lee, 8-Jordan Taufua

Replacements: 16-Sama Malolo, 17-Jordan Lay, 18-Michael Alaalatoa, 19-Brian Alainu’uese, 20-Alamanda Motuga, 21-Melani Matavao, 22-Neria Fomai, 23-Danny Toala

Referee: Jaco Peyper

07:17 PM BST

Quarter-finals on the line

Hello and welcome to Telegraph Sport’s coverage of tonight’s pool D clash between Japan and Samoa at the Stade de Toulouse.

Both Japan and Samoa come into this match with a win, a loss, and five points from two matches, with the latter ahead on points difference. With a place in the quarter-finals up for grabs, there is everything to play for.

Japan got their tournament under way by comfortably beaten Chile 42-12 before slumping to a 12-34 defeat against England after Steve Borthwick’s side pulled away late in the second half.

Despite the final scoresheet, The Brave Blossoms showed signs of the vigour and intensity of old as their efforts to play at a high tempo were met by a stultifying England kicking game.

Having impressed at previous World Cups, most notably blowing away South Africa in 2015, Japanese rugby has hit something of a roadblock since the pandemic. In three years, their only victories came against Portugal, Tonga and Uruguay, although they ran both France and New Zealand close at home. And entering the World Cup, they had won one of their last 10 games.

But if their most recent performance is anything to go by, it would be a brave person to bet against these one-time giant slayers claiming at least one big scalp at this World Cup.

They come up against a Samoa side who marched over Chile to win 43-10 before losing 10-19 to Argentina in a hard-fought clash.

Samoa have won 13 of the 17 previous meetings between the two sides – including a 24-22 victory in Sapporo two months ago. But Japan won the three previous matches – including fixtures in the pool phases of the last two Rugby World Cups.

Samoa have been bolstered at this World Cup by the relaxation of eligibility rules which have allowed a number of star players, such as former Wallaby Christian Leali’ifano, to represent their native country.

A win tonight could help them on their way to reaching the knock-out stages for the first time in 28 years, while Japan are seeking a second successive last-eight place.

Not that either side’s destiny is entirely in their hands. Argentina, sitting one point behind in Pool D and with a game in hand on both Japan and Samoa after this match, will be paying close attention. They won’t want to miss out on the quarter-finals for a second tournament in a row.