Review: Japan v Australia - Green and Gold Rugby

Review: Japan v Australia

Review: Japan v Australia

The Wallabies don’t play Japan very often, but it shouldn’t be hard to work out how they think the script should pan out. Top three against a minow sitting outside the top ten. The Wallabies will think they can overpower the Brave Blossoms, while they will hope to use their speed and guile to go around the Aussies.

The Match

First half

The Wallabies were up 14 -3 after 20 minutes of the game thanks to two very well worked tries. The first to Samu Kerevi was simple numbers after the Wallabies had moved the ball from sideline to sideline a couple of times. The second was the favourite Wallabies set-piece move of the inside ball off the flyhalf to the blindside winger. Australia was working into their game plan very well. It wasn’t long before Tatafu Polota-Nau scored their third try running off the back of a well built driving maul. Australia’s forth first half try again came off the back of a lineout. This time they set up quick ball in centre field and beat the rush defence on the outside. Kuridrani had a clear forty metre run to the line. Kuridrani crosses for his second as the siren sounds for halftime.

Perhaps Australia’s best half of rugby this year. Tatafu Polota-Nau in the forwards and Marika Koroibete in the backs stood out if I had to pick players. I’ve seen enough of Reece Hodge at flyhalf now to want to see more of the same. One highlight for me was a penalty kick for touch from the forty metre line landing on the five-metre line.

Second half

Australia started the second half a little loosely and Japan took full advantage. They worked their way into the Wallabies 22 and pounded away at the line until Wimpie van der Walt crashed through the Wallabies to score. Australia hit back through another bit of sloppy play when Henry Speight cleaned up a loose pass and broke the rushing defence, Beale backed him up and Kerevi put himself in the right spot to take the final pass and fend off the last defender. Australia refocused and off a scrum close to the try line Kerevi took the crash ball and managed an around the back ball to put Kuridrani over for his hat-trick.

Australia was now in complete control of the match. Surprisingly Japan was still kicking for goal from penalties Nick Phipps fell on a loose ball to score then put Simmons through a gaping hole to stretch the lead out 63-16. Amanaki Mafi crashed over from a rolling maul to scrape back seven points but with ten minutes to go Australia had the game in the bag.

The Game Changer

Australia was clearly the better side from the very start of the game. What was most impressive was the way they finished the game striving for the same patterns and energy that they started it.


How do you pick a man of the match in a nine try win. Hodge was okay and kicked 9/9. TPN was everywhere in the forwards. But if I had to pick one guy I can’t go past Tevita Kuridrani’s three tries and brilliant work in defence.

Wallaby watch

I’ve already mentioned Hodge and TPN but there were good performances all across the field. Kerevi, Speight and Koroibete in the backs. Sio, Kepu, Hooper and Coleman in the forwards.

The Details


Score & Scorers

Japan: 30
Tries: Wimpie van der Walt, Amanaki Mafi, Kazuki Himino
Conversions: Rikiya Matsuda 1, Yu Tamura 2
Penalties: Rikiya Matsuda 3/4
Australia: 63
Tries: Samu Kerevi 2, Henry Speight, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Tevita Kuridrani 3, Nick Phipps, Rob Simmons
Conversions: Reece Hodge 9/9



  • Alister Smith

    I haven’t yet watched the game but based on this it seems a few gambles were worth a go. The 63 is impressive but hopefully conceding 30 points to Japan isn’t a sign we are falling back into bad habits

  • Jason

    It’s a bit hard to have anyone play an average game when it’s against Japan.

    Also we now know Hodge isn’t a true flyhalf. John Eales said it best ‘Well he’s not, not the back up’ He’ll do in a pinch but we really need to be bringing *someone* into the squad who can really play 10.

    • And yet a couple did.

    • Dexter

      Harsh on Hodge. I think he did play a little too much like an outside back but he was thrown into a test match in a position he hadn’t started in for years. Our other options were less than impressive in an exhibition last week. I think the TPN ‘most carries’ stat after his first touch in the 2nd half sums it up. Hodge underplayed and didn’t share the forwards work effort to his outside backs. He:

      1) Got caught in a clean out role too often so needed to use his forwards to give him time to get back in play

      2) Was waiting for the ‘perfect moment’ too much before he plays. He will get more confident playing off less than ideal ball with time but the waiting also meant he gassed his pack

      Some of our best play came off Beale at 1st receiver but this is what happens when Foley plays as well and what the team needs.

      Hodge kicks for goal and touch (think 1st touch finder from 40m out to within 5m for 1st try) were exceptional and his work under the high ball from the 2nd fullback position was also great. Having our 10 and 15 at the back and as ball players also meant we could play 2 genuine wingers and 2 genuine centres so the balance was way better than using a 12 as a ballplayer/fullback like we were before.

      I probably like this general team set up more than what we had before. It makes more sense to me.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        That’s the point mate. Yeah he did OK but he proved he’s not a test 10 and the Wallabies need a decent back up. It ain’t Hodge

        • Dexter

          I think Hodge can be with the tools he has. We saw NZ struggle without Barrett and now we saw what other options Aus have behind Foley. Paia’aua, Cooper, McIntyre, Debreczeni… we know plenty that aren’t up to it. Who do we now spend the time developing? There have to be answers not just problems all the time.

        • Jason

          Spot on.
          It would be wonderful if we had an experienced fly half who regularly plays Super Rugby maybe a few test caps. But apparently we mustn’t because surely if we had such a player they’d be in the squad in case of an injury/illness exactly like this.

          Seriously though, I don’t mind trying people at flyhalf but I think it was pretty obvious beforehand that Hodge isn’t going to be a test fly half and probably never will be (at least at the Test Level). And that’s okay, he’s a cracking winger and if you’ve got an injury or something he’s fine to slot in there but anything else you’d really want a second specialists fly half. If that’s not Quade Cooper you’ll want to start blooding whoever it’s going to be, my money is on Hamish Stewart he’s been so composed and dynamic for Queensland Country in the NRC but Mack Mason is another option (plus Cheika does love to pick a Waratah), the other plus with Mason would be that he’s done in the NRC so it’s not like he’s doing anything else.

          I find it so puzzling that Cheika had a practice game (that the ARU stuffed up the whole NRC for) and he plays Paia’aua at 10 (when Paia’aua is very obviously not a 10 but rather a 12), sure Mason or Stewart might not be ready for a real test match but against the Barbarians you’ve got nothing to lose, and then against Japan we take one of them on the bench.

          Yet instead we see a bench of guys who are too old or known entities with the exception of Matt Philip, Joe Powell and Curtis Rona none of whom got much playing time.

          Hooker is another massive question mark, what do we do next year when TPN is playing overseas and Moore has retired, hand the keys over to the 19 year old Uelese (who has 39 minutes of Super Rugby and 15 minutes of Test Rugby). It’s madness!

          On the surface things are looking pretty okay for the Wallabies they debuted 25 players since the last World Cup but if you look a little closer those numbers while impressive don’t tell you the real story. Most of these young players brought into the side haven’t been guys who have come in off the bench or been in and around the squad for a while instead they are changes that have been forced due to injury or exceptionally poor form. Cheika is not being proactive enough in exploring what players are actually up to test level and is spending too much game time on players who have shown they are not up to it (Ned Hanigan, Nick Phipps, and Lopeti Timani are good examples of this).

          Cheika is talking about having team continuity, what for — we have at least 18 months before the World Cup, we should still be searching for our lineups particularly the upcoming June Test series we should be tinkering with the side, why did it take so long to have Rodda and Tui brought into the test side, yet we have Ned Hanigan playing the full 80 for 7 tests and giving us absolutely nothing, we should be using some of those bench spots to try our young guys, sure maybe you don’t against South Africa or New Zealand, Scotland you don’t risk it too, but Fiji and Japan you’ve got to be exploring your players finding out who is good enough and who isn’t. Instead of wandering aimlessly plugging holes when they pop up, we should have tried Tui at 6 during the June test series I think everyone would agree he’s been immeasurably better than Hanigan and trying him at 6 is a no brainer given his background (playing No8) and his physical tools.

        • Andy

          He needs a season or 2 playing it for the rebels before he is of the standard required.

        • Jason

          To my eye what he’s missing compared to a true Test player isn’t the sort of thing you can really learn at this stage.

        • Andy

          I’m not a coach but you could argue that about all our options to be honest

        • Jason

          If you mean Lance, I’d agree, Quade not, but Cheika isn’t selecting him for someone reason. Beale isn’t anymore. But we do have two young fly haves coming up in Hamish Stewart and Mack Mason. Both are quite different players from each other but have the potential to be real test players.

          I think the problem is Cheika doesn’t really *test* his players and doesn’t try to get them game time. If you look at our *new players* most of them have been forced and Cheika will find a diamond in the rough (Tui and Rodda for example) yet when he chooses to bring someone new in it’s someone like Hanigan (who is still in the squad somehow!). He doesn’t let his players show if they are ready or not, and when they do get the opportunity and they aren’t ready he persists with them way too long. Hanigan shouldn’t be playing 10 test matches, we have Tom Staniforth killing it in the NRC yet is ignored.

        • Rob Malcolm

          “Yeah he did OK”
          Yeah he did. That’s the definition of a back-up. He allowed the rest of the backline to shine.
          The Wallabies have a decent back up. It is Hodge.

        • Alister Smith

          Good point Rob.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Maybe against a team so far below I think he’d be a liability against any of the other top 5 or so teams

        • Darrin Briggs

          Unlike New Zealand who has a unbelievable depth of resources in this position we don’t have that luxury. name one player they could step into his shoes that plays fly-half regularly (besides Cooper) that’s test standard or even close.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Mate I agree which is why it was so dumb to have failed kiwis who couldn’t get a gig in NZ playing in the Rebels and Force. I just don’t see Hodge as a long term option

      • Haz

        Don’t think it’s hard on him. He did well considering, but he’s just not right for the 10 shirt and there’s nothing wrong with stating that.

  • Hitcho

    9/9 from the boot : )

  • Sevenwithasixonmyback

    NOT ONE.
    And Reece Hodge should be anywhere in the starting team for his goal kicking alone. Jeez he can kick a bladder (on a mound).
    And Kurtley belongs at 15. Great game.
    What about our Fijians?
    Imagine that they weren’t really Fijian and were actually Australian. How good would we be?
    Comments welcome.

    • Patrick

      I’d comment but I don’t understand your comment.

      • bazzar

        the idea of nick phipps not throwing shit passes confuses me too.

    • Cam

      Phipps threw plenty of shit passes mate. It’s a credit to the forwards that they didn’t drop more of his Hail Mary short balls. The guy is so scatty it’s not funny. No vision. Powell didn’t really set the world on fore either. No 9 depth is a big worry after Genia. Anyone know how Ryan Lowrens is traveling?

      • 30 mm tags

        I wouldn’t be as critical but essentially you are right. Powell is another fumbler and his do nothing at the base of the retreating pack when Japan scored their last try showed he has a long way to go. Again James Tuttle , on his recent form is superior to Phipps and Powell. It’s as thought Genia or Ken Catchpole taught Tuttle and Luke Burgess taught Nick Phipps and Joe Powell. It sounds like whingeing but if the coach of your Super XV team becomes head coach or assistant coach of the National team ( Michael Cheika and Stephen Larkham) it gives you a leg up as they they probably in their subconscious know as they have spen so much time with you, that they ( selectors) down play the negatives of your game. I believe that is why the likes of Powell, Stirzlacker and Ryan Lowrens are softly overlooked. I’d have any of those three ahead of Phipps and Powell.

      • Darrin Briggs

        Scatty yes…big engine to the breakdown yes..ultra competitive yes.. clears the ball from the breakdown quickly yes….. play Wallaby style yes.
        Whilst phibbs has his faults I’m sure he is the second best option that we have.

    • Jason

      I loved it last week (and a few times too this week) the whole backline is moving forwards ready to take the pass from the halfback and execute a really nice backline move and Phips just holds it in the ruck/scrum/maul waiting… for no reason and then after the whole backline had stopped moving forward he finally pulls it out and throws the pass.

    • 30 mm tags

      Agree except for Nick Phipps…. another classic trademark fumble when his pass got tangled up,at the base of the scrum because he wasn’t anticipating a bit of irregularity. Against a powerful forward pack in the next three weeks that awareness will be critically needed. Surely as the 9 for a world class team that is a fundamental.He is good and gives it his very best but he still doesn’t pass the ball consistently in front of the runner. James Tuttle does not make those mistakes.

      • Greg

        I saw some lovely passes from Beale that just sat up and waited for the runner to arrive. And arrive the runner did! Beautiful.

  • Dorothy Ball

    Wimpie van der Walt has surpassed Kwagga Smith as my favourite name in the current game. I think Kwagga’s lining up for the Baa Baas later too.

  • adastra32

    So the No 3 ranked team convincingly beats the No 11 – as it should be. Now for the real tests….

    • Darrin Briggs

      It’s exactly what we needed.

      • adastra32

        As in a predicted win? Yes.

  • I would like to know where I can watch a replay of this Australia/Japan game that proved Hodge was utterly hopeless and should never ever play 10 again. I watched a game this afternoon where he ran and passed well, fitted in to the Wallaby pattern smoothly, kicked excellently out of hand and kicked wonderfully from the tee.

    Most of those commenting reckon Foley’s hopeless too, I doubt they would even be satisfied if some scientist cloned an combination of Carlos Spencer and Dan Carter and put them into the Cheika team.

    This is totally a result of preconceptions and misconceptions. A 10 must play the NZ way or they’re hopeless. You can’t play two playmakers at 10 & 12 anymore, it doesn’t work. You can’t switch positions between defence and attack, if you’re given a number you must stay right where that number says or else.

    So how on earth did Australia beat the number one team in the world three weeks ago with so many obvious and fatal flaws?

    In an interview before the game Cheika said that the coaching team agreed months ago that Hodge would be Foley’s back-up. It did not seem to be a lie. What we saw today was Hodge playing a similar style to Foley. Not perfect, as you would expect him not to be, but close enough to take Foley’s role and effectively deliver it.

    Cheika plays a system where there are dual playmakers, where the 10 needs to primarily be able to run and link up with other players, where the 10’s job is not necessarily to control the whole game like a puppeteer. For better or worse, Cooper is a puppeteer who no longer runs at the line and support other linebreakers. That doesn’t fit the Cheika gameplan, so he doesn’t get selected even though he can play a really good game as he did for the Barbarians.

    Eddie Jones plays a particularly suffocating game and has a 10 that is ideal for that plan. Gatland had a similar plan for the Lions and a 10 to suit. No one bangs on for pages as to why Jones and Gatland have got it all wrong and their 10 is hopeless. Cheika has a gameplan and he needs a particular type of playing style at 10 for that plan. So why the endless whingeing?

    • Alister Smith

      I agree. I am beginning to think that there is a lot of whinging for the sake of it on this site. I find it difficult to believe that anyone can deny that the Wallabies haven’t improved from the individual displays in the SRC and from the early test performances. Cheika and his team, despite failing to do what everyone else thinks they should is beginning to get some results. Can’t you just sit and watch a game and enjoy it without bringing all your state and personal player preferences.

      • 30 mm tags

        The reason this site exists is to spread knowledge,stimulate alternative viewpoints and/ or offer hopefully constructive criticism. Watching the game without thinking that there may be a positive to enhance or a negative to eliminate seems a terrible waste of a brain and a life without passion.

        • Alister Smith

          That’s good to know. I thought from experience of reading some of the comments it was to proselytise about how dumb our current coaches are, how they are missing things that are obvious to all the fans, how the players selected for the Wallabies aren’t actually the best ones available and blokes that have previously been tried and haven’t really performed or don’t fit the current game plan are actually much better then the ones in there, how there are too many Waratahs in the team and that Cheika always picks his mates, how there aren’t enough Reds, Brumbies, Rebels, Force (or Waratahs) players picked depending on which side you support, how Michael Hooper is one of the worst players to don a Wallabies Jersery and should be dropped as soon as Pocock returns (or Liam Gill), how Ned Hannigan is somehow to blame for all the sides woes, how everyone in the hierarchy is missing the mercurial brilliance of Quade Cooper or alternatively that Quade Cooper is the devil incarnate and, of course, how we could all do it soooo much better.

          There is often some really insightful analysis in the comments and some discussion around what’s raised in articles but all too often we see the same blokes harping about their same pet peeves – and none of that stimulates knowledge or alternative viewpoints, it just continues circular arguments and hypotheses that can never be proven.

          I would agree with Greg below that we conceded a few too many points and also that players made errors but the wholesale character assassination of some players and coaches is just ridiculous.

        • onlinesideline


        • jamie

          None of which are incorrect :-)

          Hanigan does suck though.

    • Rob Malcolm

      Too right. Cheika has always said he wants us to play a Wallaby style (a system if you prefer). It’s fast. It’s minimal kicking. It’s playing at the gain line and running straight. It’s scoring tries. He is prepared to take risks on players’ defence if they deliver in attack.
      ABs play a different style – more pragmatic – more kicking, more counter-attacking from mistakes. England are evolving under EJ, but you can’t help feeling that under pressure they revert to their old style of accumulating 3s.
      Quade Cooper vintage 2011 would be our 5/8 under Cheika/Larkham. But he can’t play the way he used to – he’s now wayyy deeper, and has lost his 1:1 mojo and speed. His pass is still there – better even – and his tactical kicking has improved. In short, he can’t really play the Cheika/Larkham system.
      Hodge knows the Cheika/Larkham system and is talented and smart enough to execute it. He didn’t overplay his hand (which Beale often does at 10). His kicking for goal was awesome.
      Obviously Japan are not the ABs or England so this wasn’t an acid test, but it clearly demonstrated the Wallaby style. It clearly demonstrated that the Cheika/Larkham coaching team can deliver. It clearly demonstrated that the touring team selection wasn’t about snubbing Quade.
      Well done Reece Hodge. We can all breathe easier knowing the training ground can translate into a game situation.

      • Darrin Briggs

        Can’t agree with you more!

    • Darrin Briggs

      Spot on comments!

    • Greg

      Good comments. Thanks.

      Leaking 30 points, albeit with a team that included many changes, is still an area on which we need to focus.

      Good on Japan for keeping going and not going to water in the face of a pretty devastating score line.

  • Hoss

    Morning GAGGERS,

    Thanks as always Sully for the write-up.

    Fair hit-out for the boys and good to see a few Reggies and Fringies get some game time that will only benefit the coming weeks.

    The positives – i thought we kept our shape well, Hodgies goal kicking – beautiful action, clean strike and i like he kicks the same whether its from 15 out or 40 out – nice pure striker of the ball – of for no other reason than confidence, he should at least kick rest of tour, Nard gets the ‘yips’ far too often and at critical times.

    Speight was great and really looked for work – he needed this type of game to get his mojo back. Same exact comments for Samu.

    Koribete – wow, how long has he played rugby again, he is a weapon and a beast in D. He is a keeper – he has just got so vastly better with each outing.

    Negatives – the fringies were ok-ish, the reserves didnt really push their claims – though they were ok-ish as well.Phipps, the score masked a heap of errors, Simmo – same. Coleman seems to go missing a bit on ball carries last few games. Timani – some body make him mad, i’d love to see him wind up the needle on agro (controlled). Hodge did everything ok, probably got caught cleaning out too much for a 10 and that was the biggest concern – if the Nippon can turn over the pill / get ruck penalties as they did how the hell we gonna fair against some world class pilferes in Tiburic, O’Brien, Etoje, Warburton etc.

    Overall a 7/10 for the boys and more benfits than negatives – but alot to work on, as there always is / should be.

    I would add the caveat that Hodge at 10 is ok – BUT only if KB is on the filed, otherwise i think it fraught with danger.

    The Northern Hemisphere Kiwis next, then the Soap Dodgers and lastly the Haggis Eaters – theres a spring in our step.

    Updated 2017 ‘not lose ratio’ = 72.73%

  • thehunters

    Kerevi can read the play better in defence when he is not too wide, though this game was never going to tell us how individual players will go against a top 5 team.


Just another Rugby tragic. Shane "Sully" Sullivan has been in man love with the game since high school in the 70's. He inflicts his passion on family and anyone who will listen. He can't guarantee unbiased opinion but he can tell you the Reds are Awesome! To read non-rugby content head to

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