Match Preview: Sunwolves v Reds - Green and Gold Rugby
Queensland Reds

Match Preview: Sunwolves v Reds

Match Preview: Sunwolves v Reds

Its rivalry round in Tokyo, as two of the oldest of Australian Conference foes meet at the picturesque Prince Chichibu Stadium for the second time in as many years. The Sunwolves will be looking forward to getting home  on Saturday afternoon after impressing in the last three rounds of Super Rugby. The Reds on the other hand will be desperate to notch their first win of the season but, perhaps more importantly, break their longest losing streak against the Sunwolves in Japan in their history.


Neither team would have looked at their draw and been particularly enamored at what the scheduled held for the first four weeks.  In fact both teams probably would have had this fixture circled as an opportunity for a little respite from the top tier teams. As it stands, the Sunwolves have probably surprised most in going down to the Tahs by 1 point in Round 2 and then backing up to beat the Chiefs away in Round 3. All this despite not having the majority of their international players as they prepare for the RWC.

If you were to chart the performances of the Reds on a graph, then it would likely be a steady decline.  From the highs of a first round bye to their frustrating efforts against the Tahs in Sydney last week.  In reality the 2nd round performance in their loss to the Highlanders gave their beleaguered (and former) supporters a glimmer of hope and us, overly optimistic fans were able to scramble together some positives in their loss to a weakened Crusaders team. The Tah game though? There’s not too much we could take from that barring a couple of individual performances.


What an intriguing history these two great rivals have. Dating all the way back to the mid-2016s when they first met, when names like Browning, Neville, Matjiwow and (of course) Goromaru were running around for the Reds.  On that sunny afternoon at Suncorp, with the local Japanese community coming out in force to cheer on their beloved Ed Quirk, the Sunwolves gave the Reds a hell of a fright before the home team closed out the match for a 35-25 victory.

The return clash, in true Hollywood tension building mode, would not eventuate for another 23 months and 21 days.  This time the Sunwolves would be the hosts and they will pull out a performance that would shock the rugby world.  Well perhaps just the western world because, following the Japanese knocking off the Spingboks in the last RWC, these types of upsets are more anticipated than unexpected.  In a remarkable afternoon of rugby the Sunwolves were as excellent as the Reds were dire and ran away winners 63-28 highlighted by a personal haul from flyhalf Hayden Parker of 36 points.

Retribution would flow from the Reds when they returned to their home base of Suncorp Stadium to once again host the Sunwolves, this time in the last round of the 2018 season.  The home team would celebrate, arguably, their most impressive win of the season and run away 48-27 winners, delivering departing players Jono Lance and Eto Nabuli the perfect send off.


  • This will be the fourth Super Rugby meeting between the Sunwolves and the Reds, with each of the previous three won by the home team on the day.
  • The Sunwolves have earned competition points in four of their last five Super Rugby games on home turf (W4, 1LBP).
  • The Reds have lost their last eight games in a row away from home in Super Rugby, conceding an average of 39 points per game in that period.
  • The Sunwolves’ 100% goal- kicking success rate continues for a fourth round; they remain the only team with a flawless record in front of the uprights (18/18).
  • Reds’ Harry Hockings won eight lineouts in Round 4, more than any other player (excluding steals); the last time any Reds player won more in a single Super Rugby game was in June 2015 (Jake Schatz -9)


The Reds have made a bunch of changes from last week, the most significant being the non-selection of Izack Rodd and Taniela Tupou who are on ‘Rugby Australia Workload Management Leave’.  It sees Lukhan Salakai-Loto moves back to lock with Angus Scott-Young ensuring we still have a hyphenated name on the side of the scrum.  Ruan Smith will join his twin brother in the starting side for the first time this year.

Out wide, Isaac Lucas has been named at flyhalf, replacing the injured Bryce Hegarty, which opens up the fullback spot for Hamish Stewart (where he first featured for Queensland in the corresponding game last year). A shuffle of the bench sees us with two loosehead prop reserves and potentially the first sighting of Filipo Daugunu this season.

The Sunwolves selectors haven’t sad idle either with even more changes than the Reds.  Jason Emery moves from the centres to fullback, relegating Semisi Masirewa to the bench. It means Japanes international Sione Teaupa will start at 13 in a potentially damaging centre combination with his skipper, Michael Litte.  Further out, another Tongan born player Hosea Saumaki will start on the wing.

Significantly, flyhalf Hayden Parker is back in the starting team after being on the bench last week, ready to torment the Reds as he did this match last year.  In the backrow we get to see former QLD Schoolboy star, and Gunnedah product, Ben Gunter get his chance at blindside. And speaking of backrower, the most notable change to the team is the selection of former Australian Super Rugby player of the year, Amanaki Mafi (still fighting assault chargers) named on the bench.

Sunwolves: 15 Jason Emery, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Sione Teaupa, 12 Michael Little (c), 11 Hosea Saumaki, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Jamie Booth, 8 Rahboni Warren Vosayaco, 7 Dan Pryor, 6 Ben Gunter, 5 Uwe Helu, 4 Tom Rowe, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Atsushi Sakate, 1 Pauliasi Manu Substitutes: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 James Moore, 20 Amanaki Mafi, 21 Keisuke Uchida, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Semisi Masirewa

Reds:  15 Hamish Stewart, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi (c), 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Sefa Naivalu, 10 Isaac Lucas, 9 Moses Sorovi, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Liam Wright, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Harry Hockings, 4 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 3 Ruan Smith, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 JP Smith Substitutes: 16 Brandon Paenga-Amosa , 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Feao Fotuaika, 19 Angus Blythe, 20 Caleb Timu, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Teti Tela, 23 Filipo Daugunu

Angus Blyth Reds v Chiefs trial 2019 (photo credit: QRU Media/Brendan Hertel)

The Reds pack, in particular Salakai-Loto, Blythe and Hockings, need to lift their game big time.


Flyhalves: Hayden Parker is back in the starting line-up after having a ‘break’ on the bench last weekend.  His selection provides the Sunwolves, not only a dead-eye dick of a goal kicker, but a controlling play maker capable of setting his dangerous backline alight.  Opposite him will be the extremely talented rookie, Isaac Lucas, who has been thrown the much shared Queensland 10 jersey in just his second start.  How much Lucas can free up his fellow backs, and how much the team can stymie Parker, will go a fair way to deciding this match.

Blindsides:  As mentioned, the former Brisbane based BBC backrower, Ben Gunter will make his Sunwolves debut as a stepping stone to his potential RWC selection later this year.  The massive 21 year old is an imposing figure capable of making his presence felt on either side of the ball.  Angus Scott-Young, meanwhile, has made his way back into the starting team thanks to the resting of Izack Rodda. Scott-Young doesn’t have the physically imposing stature of Gunter, and is less likely to make the dynamic impact of his opposite number. But ASY will be critical in ensuring the Sunwolves pack don’t get a roll on and, more importantly, will need to work his but off to chase the ball the home team’s backline is likely to throw around.


With absolutely no confidence or reason behind it I think the Reds will win by 2.


Date: Saturday 16 March, 2019
Kick off: 1:15pm local time (2:15pm QLD time)
Venue: Prince Chichibu Stadium, Tokyo
Referee: Damon Murphy
Assistant Referees:  Shuhei Kubo& Aki Aso
TMO: Minoru Fuji
Weather forecast: Early showers – 13 °C


  • Christopher

    Subs in the forwards don’t bother me at all – capable replacements and bench still strong. backs however…..

  • John Tynan

    You must have needed a crowbar to get your tongue out of your cheek, Reg!!

    • Hoss

      I like Lucas at 10. real jack-in-the-box with dancing feet.

      Reds by 11.

      • John Tynan

        So was Giteau, but he was also hopeless at creating space for those around him. Lucas got a heap of wraps last week, but all I saw was hesitation and an ability to get isolated. Oh, and a peach of a tackle on Folau.

      • Happyman

        Gents my bold prediction is Lucas is going to grab the 10 jersey which he will not relinquish again for some time. I saw him play last year and he has time that cannot be coached. His touches against all opposition so far have had plenty of class.

        • John Tynan

          Let’s hope so. We need someone to grab it by the scruff.

  • dsb

    Sunwolves by at least two

  • skip

    What happens to Brad if they lose this one?

    • Bernie Chan

      Dunno, but if we lose this we go to 0-4…Not as confident as Hoss…will take ANY win at this stage.
      The Sunwolves goal kicking success rate is 100%…jeez Parker didn’t even start last week.

      • GO THE Q REDS

        Could have sworn they missed one last week. . …hmmm may have to check that one!

        • Bernie Chan

          Notwithstanding the amazing goal kicking percentage, Parker has been going very well. His centres aren’t mugs either so DPA and Kerevi will have to be on their game defensively.

      • skip

        For me it will be that he unceremoniously dumped a load of players (one of whom was a centurion whom it seems he just decided he didn’t want to coach) and now he doesn’t have any excuses left.

        • Bernie Chan

          You won’t hear me disagreeing with that sentiment…

    • idiot savant

      His contract will be renewed


    This game could potentially be ANYTHING. ……except a solid Reds win! Hope the Reds finally get a GOOD 10 in Lucas. Not sure why he wouldn’t just start their last week if he’s good enough this week….. and Hegarty was injured last week too. Reeks of desperate mismanagment

    • John Tynan

      Out via he’d last weekwnd, and still showing poor selecting ability. At this rate, there’s dedinidefi a Wobs job on offer.

  • Huw Tindall

    Without an established 9/10 combo the Reds just need to play simple rugby trucking it up the middle then having a go on counter attack. Their forwards SHOULD overwhelm the Moondogs. Pick and go. Scrum. Maul. Build pressure across multiple phases. Therefore they’ll probably try and play wider than the Tahs and get done by the Moondogs with Parker’s boot being the difference.

  • MungBean

    Predicting Reds by 1, mainly because I’m a bigot.

  • Bernie Chan

    Is it true Lukhan wants to move south…? I know he came from SYD but surely the QRU should do all possible to retain a guy they helped develop and who is yet to peak…?

  • T.edge

    How many hyphenated names are there in Super Rugby at the moment?
    I also look forward to the clash between the Reds and the Moondogs with the history these teams share!

  • idiot savant

    I will be interested to see what strategy changes the Reds will make for this game. McKay has just returned from a head coach gig in Japan so he will know the strengths and frailties of the Japanese game.

    Last year Thorn picked a huge pack thinking he could outmuscle them. The Moondogs had really challenged 2 kiwi sides for the first 60 minutes in their two matches immediately prior to last years game and that should have sent alarm bells about a big forward strategy. But clearly it didnt and Thorn had his arse handed to him. This time Id be surprised if McKay hasn’t varied the plan. Both forward replacements are more mobile and ASY is a workhorse so thats a start. Hopefully Peter Ryan’s work will also make a difference because scramble defence will be necessary.

    Im still mystified about Stewart. He really hasn’t played 10 for more than a few minutes at a time this season so the reluctance to play him there must have stemmed from training. I have heard that he doesn’t talk enough (organise the backs/demand the ball etc) for McKay and possibly that he hasn’t leant how to play flat to the line. I still think there is potential there. Stewart only started at flyhallf 5 times last season and the Reds won 3 of those games and scored 7 tries in one of the losses. They only won 6 games all season.

  • Jason

    I wouldn’t mind seeing Stewart at 12, with Lucas at 10 (if it works). Paia’aua likely leaving.

  • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

    Thanks, Reg. Please do a podcast after last night, especially if Quade plays well.

    Out of interest, will you feel at all conflicted when the Rebels play the Reds? If a new coach had come in, fired Larkham and refused Gregan’s return (as I heard Thorn convinced Stiles not to let Genia return) and kicked out Ben Alexander, I’d probably feel highly betrayed. And if Gregan and Larkham ended up in Melbourne, I’d find it difficult not to support them…

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The original prop in a prop's body, but thankfully I have the rugby mind of a prop as well.

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