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Warren Gatland has opted to blood in some new players for this first game, which is customary on a Lions Tour as the coach gets to grip with his available options, meaning as many as eight debutants will take to the field this weekend.
A lot has changed in personnel for the Japanese too since hosting the World Cup in 2019, with as many as 17 new players being brought into the current squad.
Still, Jamie Joseph takes control of the team following their monumental run to the World Cup quarter-finals before losing out to the eventual winners, South Africa.
They did have a warm-up game against their domestic team the Sunwolves a fortnight ago before heading over for this tour, and having gone in at the break 11 points down, they fought back well to win it 32-17.
A constant theme throughout that game was the Sunwolves’ dominance at the breakdown though, and that has to be a worry going up against the breakdown specialists the Lions possess.
Japan +16 Point Handicap
This will be the third time the Lions have ‘hosted’ a Test match, following games against Argentina (25-25) in Cardiff in 2005 and a rest of the World XV (7-15) in 1986.
Both those games ended saw close encounters, and this could be another slow start for the favourites.
However, the British and Irish Lions have won both their openers over the last two tours, one in Hong Kong against the Barbarians and the latest in New Zealand against the Kiwi Barbarians.
The current handicap line is at 16 points, and considering the Cherry Blossoms came away with one-try victories over both fellow Tier One nations Ireland and Scotland at their last major tournament in 2019, that seems on the large side.
In fact, the Lions in their last tour saw six of their 10 matches decided by fewer than seven points, and we’ll go with them to have another slow start.