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England v Japan: Rugby World Cup 2023 match preview, team news, kick-off time & Pool D standings

George Ford masterminded England’s victory over Argentina in their first Pool D match
Venue: Nice stadium Dates: Sunday, 17 September Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Coverage: Listen to commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and follow live text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.

England will be in pole position to qualify for the World Cup quarter-finals with victory over Japan in their Pool D match in Nice on Sunday.

Fly-half George Ford kicked all 27 points in their opening pool win over Argentina in Marseille last Saturday.

England are without banned duo Owen Farrell and Tom Curry but Billy Vunipola is available again.

Japan, who are top of Pool D after a 42-12 win over Chile, could blow the pool wide open if they win.

The Brave Blossoms reached the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in 2019 on home soil, beating Ireland and Scotland en route to topping their group.

However, defeats by Samoa, Fiji and Italy in the lead-up to this World Cup have seen their world ranking slip to 14th.

England have won all three previous Tests against Japan and beat them 52-13 at Twickenham in November.

England and Japan team news

Lewis Ludlam has been rewarded for his energetic cameo in England’s win over Argentina with a starting spot at number eight.

The 27-year-old, who made 11 tackles after coming on in the 66th minute against the Pumas, replaces Curry, who was sent off for a high tackle in the third minute in Marseille.

Sinckler and Joe Marler come into the front row in the other two changes to Steve Borthwick’s starting line-up.

Ellis Genge drops to the bench, while Dan Cole is out of the squad entirely.

Vunipola, the sole specialist number eight in England’s squad, is also on the bench after serving a two-match ban following his red card for a high hit on Andrew Porter in the defeat by Ireland last month.

Japan head coach Jamie Joseph has brought in three veterans of their 2019 campaign – hooker Shota Horie, flanker Pieter Labuschagne and captain and number eight Kazuki Himeno – with centre Tomoki Osada the other change to the starting line-up.

View from England camp

England head coach Borthwick on the selection of Ludlam ahead of Vunipola: “With the nature of this game and the challenge Japan pose, I thought Lewis was the right person to start. He carries, he runs hard and covers a lot of ground in defence, which I don’t think people often see.

“What he does often goes under the radar. He’s that type of player and we value that here. Lewis is a great energy giver. He is a great driver of this squad and very generous in helping other team-mates improve. You always need those type of players in your team.”

Borthwick on the return of Sinckler: “He probably could have played against Argentina but he’s now absolutely 100% this week.

“I saw a great advancement in the consistency of his game in the Six Nations. What I see of him now is physically a guy who is in great shape.

“He’s exceptionally strong and he’s moving really well. I sense the hunger in him and a desire in him to want to do exceptionally well for England in this World Cup.”

View from Japan camp

Japan head coach Jamie Joseph on England: “We are expecting a lot of pressure. Kicking is a big part of their game and we have got to be good enough to catch those balls under extreme pressure.

“It’s going to be one of the big parts of the game that we have got to improve on. We know that and have done a lot of training on it all week.”

England v Japan line-ups

England: Steward; May, Marchant, Tuilagi, Daly; Ford, Mitchell; Marler, George, Sinckler, Itoje, Chessum, Lawes (capt), Earl, Ludlam.

Replacements: Dan, Genge, Stuart, Martin, Vunipola, Youngs, Smith, Lawrence.

Japan: Masirewa; Matsushima, Osada, Nakamura, Naikabula; Matsuda, Nagare; Inagaki, Horie, Gu, Cornelsen, Fakatava, Leitch, Labuschagne, Himeno (c)

Replacements: Sakate, Millar, Ai Valu, Dearns, Shimokawa, Saito, Riley, Lemeki.

Referee: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)

Touch judges: Nic Berry (South Africa), Andrea Piardi (Italy)

TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)

Match facts


  • Japan will be chasing their first ever victory against England in their fourth attempt.
  • The Brave Blossoms have never scored more than 15 points or two tries against England in a Test.
  • England won the last meeting between the sides 52-13 at Twickenham in 2022.


  • England have moved into sixth on the World Rugby rankings, after coming into this tournament ranked eighth.
  • After scoring 27 points without crossing the tryline against Argentina, it was England’s highest score without a try in a Test since 2000 against South Africa in Bloemfontein.
  • They made the most kicks in play of any team in the opening round with 48.


  • Japan have lost their past eight games against Six Nations teams by an average margin of 22 points.
  • They scored the third-most tries of any team in the opening round with six.
  • The Brave Blossoms were the third-most disciplined team in the opening round, conceding only six penalties, including just four at the breakdown.

Pool D table

England’s Pool D fixtures

Saturday, 9 September: England 27-10 Argentina

Sunday, 17 September: England v Japan (Stade de Nice), 20:00

Saturday, 23 September: England v Chile (Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille), 16:45

Saturday 7 October: England v Samoa (Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille), 4:45 p.m.

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