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Premiership Rugby

Now on to Japan for touring England

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

The squad for the Japanese tour is the second-string one which so emphatically claimed the Churchill Cup title in Vancouver, coached by Sale Sharks duo Jim Mallinder and Steve Diamond, and featuring a host of promising players.

They open their Asian account on Thursday, July 3 when they take on a Japan Select XV at the Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo.

That match kicks off at 19.00 local time (09.00 GMT, 10.00 BST), and will not be screened live on TV in the UK. Tickets are priced $10-25, with students getting in for free.

The main event of the week however comes on Sunday, July 6 at the National Stadium, also in Tokyo, when England take on Japan.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has confirmed to Planet Rugby that the England players will not be awarded Test caps for the match, meaning that the World Cup clash against South Africa in Perth will potentially be the deciding game in seeing if England can break the longest ever run of consecutive Test wins, ironically held by the Springboks themselves.

Had the Japan match counted as an official Test, then England's World Cup opener against Georgia would have been the match to potentially break the record. Of course, there is a lot of water to pass under the bridge between now and then, not least two tough World Cup warm-up matches against France, which could well see the record attempt flounder regardless.

Sunday's match against Japan kicks off at 14.10 local time (06.10 GMT, 07.10 BST), with tickets ranging from $10-41, students again being admitted for free.

The touring party, despite its non-cap status, contains a host of talented players, with Leeds wing Dan Scarbrough, Bath fullback Ian Balshaw and Newcastle fly-half Dave Walder all hoping to squeeze into Clive Woodward's World Cup squad.

Newcastle No.8 Hugh Vyvyan captains the 30-man tour party, while props Mike Worsley and David Flatman, as well as lock Alex Codling, are among the capped players to be included.

Japan are currently placed 15th in the Zurich World Rankings, but go into the game having been beaten 66-15 and 63-5 by Australia 'A' in quick succession last month, although the Cherry Blossoms – as they are nicknamed – thrashed neighbours South Korea 86-3 in Osaka two weeks ago.

England tour squad:

Pete Anglesea (Sale Sharks), Iain Balshaw (Bath), Olly Barkley (Bath), Alex Brown (Gloucester), Matt Cairns (Sale Sharks), Phil Christophers (Leeds Tykes), Alex Codling (Saracens), Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks), David Flatman (Bath), Will Green (London Wasps), Phil Greening (London Wasps), Andy Hazell (Gloucester), Neal Hatley (London Irish), Michael Horak (London Irish), Dan Hyde (Leeds Tykes), Ben Johnston (Saracens), Chris Jones (Sale Sharks), Tom Palmer (Leeds Tykes), Henry Paul (Gloucester), Dan Scarbrough (Leeds Tykes), Andrew Sheridan (Sale Sharks), James Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester), Andy Titterrell (Sale Sharks), Paul Volley (London Wasps), Hugh Vyvyan (Newcastle Falcons, captain), Dave Walder (Newcastle Falcons), Nick Walshe (Sale Sharks), Fraser Waters (London Wasps), Mike Worsley (NEC Harlequins), Martyn Wood (London Wasps).

By Mark Smith

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