Wallabies v Japan Test Match Preview - Green and Gold Rugby
Wallabies

Wallabies v Japan Test Match Preview

Wallabies v Japan Test Match Preview

Background:

The Wallabies play Japan in Japan almost two years to the day from when the Rugby World Cup Final will be being played in the same venue. As much as we’d like to think this may be a wonderful bit of ‘good for the global game’ decision making, it is far more likely to be a simple 2019 reconnaissance mission.

The match will be an opportunity to build on the positives the gained from their defeat of New Zealand in Brisbane a couple of weeks ago (ignoring some of the negatives of the late win over the Barbarians last weekend).  At least we are doing better than the Japanese who played their own version of the Barbarians – a ‘World XV’ – last weekend. And lost.

Teams:

The Aussies have suffered some significant late blows, with Bernard Foley (illness), Karmichael Hunt (neck) and Will Genia (calf)  all unavailable for selection. As it stands the star of Bledisloe 3, Reece Hodge, inherits the 10 jersey and will combine with Nick Phipps in the halves.  With Israel Folau also out Kurtley Beale reverts to fullback, while Henry Speight is recalled to take over Hodge’s wing spot. The forward remain much the same as faced the kiwis with Ned Hanigan the only new face for Jack Dempsey. Matt Philip has been named on the bench for what will be his test debut if he takes the field.

The Japanese have caught a bit of the Wallaby disease by naming a bunch of flyhalves in their backline. Rikiya Matsuda will start with the 10 on his back with a couple of capable flyhalves outside him in Harumichi Tatekawa (who has spent time with the Brumbies) and Timothy Lafaele.  There is plenty of Super Rugby talent in the team with the Aussies being wary of the backrow in particular where Amanaki Lelei Mafi and Michael Leitch will combine whole hooker, Shota Horie, and scrumhalf, Fumiaki Tanaka, have had their own Super Rugby experiences.

Embed from Getty Images

Key Players:

Adam Coleman needs to bring the physicality this weekend. His role is to be the Wallaby enforcer and it’s games such as these that needs to ensure he brings his A-game to inspire the rest of his team to do the same. He has a pretty handy 17cm height advantage over his opposite number, Kazuki Himeno, so the lineout should be good.  But we need his power game across the park, on both sides of the ball, to set the agenda early and often for the Wallabies. It’s probably a tad boring to say it but Amanaki Mafi is pretty crucial. The guy was brilliant for the Rebels this year and beat all Aussies to win the Australian Super Rugby Player of the Year award last week. His running game needs to be nullified by the Aussies every damn time he gets the ball to ensure the home team doesn’t get a roll on and unleash their speedy outside backs.

A bit of history:

Here’s a few harmless (useless?) facts for you. Australia have only played Japan four times. Back in 1975 they toured and played tests in Sydney and Brisbane. Since it has only been at Rugby World Cups including 1987 (in Sydney) and 2007 (Lyon). That 2007 game set a lot of records for matches between these two countries including highest score (91-3); biggest margin (88) and most conversions by a team (9) and player (7 by Stirling Mortlock). Rocky Elsom scored three tries that game to equal the record set by winger John Ryan (on debut) back in 1975 in Brisbane. Paul McLean’s 21 points in the Sydney test of that season (two tries, five conversions and a penalty goal) remains the most points scored by a Wallaby in a test against Japan. Stephen Moore is the only player in this Wallaby squad to have played a test match against Japan, also coming off the bench in 2007. Embed from Getty Images

Tip:

Australia to win relatively easily still giving us ‘fans’ enough to whinge about. They should do it by 30.

Match Details:

Japan:  1. Keita Inagaki, 2. Shota Horie, 3. Takuma Asahara, 4 Kazuki Himeno, 5. Hell Uve, 6. Michael Leitch [C], 7. Kousaku Shinsuke, 8. Amanaki Mafi, 9. Shiro Tanaka, 10. Rikiya Matsuda, 11. Ryuji Noguchi, 12. Rikichi Tachikawa, 13. Timothy Lafaele, 14. Lomano Lava Lemeki, 15. Kotaro Matsushima

Replacements: 16. Atsushi Sakate , 17. Koki Yamamoto, 18. Asaeli Ai Valu, 19. Wimpie Van Der Walt, 20. Fetuani Lautaimi, 21. Yutaka Nagare, 22. Yu Tamura, 23. Sione Teaupa

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Reece Hodge, 9 Nic Phipps, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Scott Sio

Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Lopeti Timani, 22 Joe Powell, 23 Curtis Rona

Date: Saturday, November 4
Venue: International Stadium, Yokohama
Kick-off: 14:40 local (05:40 GMT)
OZ Broadcast: 16:40 (AEDT) Live on Fox Sports
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Tim Baker (Hong Kong)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

  • Pedro

    Thanks forge the write up reg.
    Having Hodge in ten makes this game exciting for me. He predominantly played there at junior levels and really wants to again, which is important. Secondly he’s a big guy with a big boot, something we haven’t seen since Larkham. Hope he has a binder sand puts some pressure on Foley, especially as we lack pivots in our squad.

    • Brumby Runner

      He will certainly offer a larger target for the Phipps basket of wayward passes. What would be well over Foley’s head will at least be within grasping range for Hodge. Probably further to reach down to the ankles though, so may be some downside as well.

      Looking forward to seeing Philip off the bench. Just hope he gets more than a five or six minute cameo.

    • Aron

      I wasn’t aware he was really keen, but that’s cool.
      I’d be interested to see his kicking game (if I had Foxtel)

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    I agree Reg, anything less than 30 will be a fail for me.

    • Huw Tindall

      Have Japan fallen that far since the RWC 2015 that you are giving them a 30 point head start?

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Japan is 11 and the Wallabies are 3 in world rugby standings. I think 30 points is on for that disparity in rankings. The RWC game against the Boks was a one off against a terrible South African side on the day. Since that game they have lost to Scotland (3x), Argentina, Fiji, Wales and Ireland. If Australia doesn’t win by 30 then I think it is a failure.

        • Huw Tindall

          That’s dire. Didn’t realise they were battling so much.

        • Simon

          They only went down to Wales by 3 points in Cardiff in November last year, though. And 5 points in one of the Scotland games.
          Another way to look at it is that they’re only one place behind Argentina, two behind Fiji and three behind France. Three spots ahead of Italy, whom we barely scraped past in June.
          For the record, the margin in those matches post RWC:
          vs Ireland: 22 and 28 points
          vs Fiji: 13 points
          vs Wales: 3 points
          vs Argentina: 34 points
          vs Scotland: 5 and 13 points
          With our new halves combination it could be an interesting game.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Yeah and I admit they are stepping up. But I still think it should be more of a training run than anything else. Certainly shouldn’t be considered a threat.

        • Simon

          It should be a training run yeah – but then we thought Italy was going to be a training run in June. Fortunately the Wallabies have come a long way since then.

          I think the Blossoms’ biggest problem will be getting their hands on the ball with that forward pack (and a 6-2 bench) hammering away at them.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          I agree the Wallabies have improved a lot this year. Mafi will definitely be a handful though

        • Tim

          It will be interesting to see the style of footy we play. I hope our back-line plays a free flowing style of footy similar to Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. Hopefully with better skill and execution tho

  • jay-c

    Phipps at 9, a new 10, a 12 not known for his distribution…
    We’ll make this look a lot harder than it should be.
    There’s a number of pretty handy players for Japan, 4 of which I count better than their Aussie opposition in 6,8,9&14.

    • jay-c

      Actually Yamada is out so maybe just 3

      • Shelby Trappey

        Dude Lemeki is Fire
        I think he is a hidden gem in world rugby as much as I love them both, I consider him to be better than Speight and maybe even Koribete
        You wanna some excellent finishing look up Lemeki’s try against the Argies earlier this year

        • jay-c

          I’ve heard he’s torn up the sevens!
          Haven’t seen him so was hesitant to back him- cheers for the tip I’ll check him out!

    • Huw Tindall

      I had the same initial feeling but if the pack can boss the Japanese around and get good front foot ball for the backs there is enough raw power there to make line breaks and get off loads going. I guess we will see just how important the dual play-maker system is to this current wallabies line up!

      • joy

        The shift from dual playmakers in the fly halves (halfs) to none?

  • Nutta

    Cheers for the write up. I’ll always back Oz but the Brave Blossoms have a special little sub-cockle area in my heart that only got stronger since they beat the Jarpies last Bill time. Play hard you little Pink Fkers!!!

    • John Tynan

      How about the liver, kidneys, colon, Nutta, you asshole?

      • Nutta

        …and proud of it

    • Garry

      And are the WBs performing any worse than Boks were when they were caught napping by the Butternut Shnapps???
      Prepare for a surprise pancing.
      But Cheika’s WBs own so many of the record lows for our rugby history, so why shouldn’t being beaten by the Blossoms be added to the cabinet?

      • Nutta

        Two sides take a field so anyone could win. And I’ve seen both Samoa and Scotland beat us. So yes Dude, they may well do it.

        But by the Holy Powers of Christ on a Stick there would be a reckoning to be had if they did yeh!?

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Nooooooooo it just can’t happen

        • Garry

          “It can happen, and you will suck it up” – M Cheika

        • Garry

          Or would there? I don’t think so. It would be explained away like the other occasions.
          Experimental combinations etc.

  • Huw Tindall

    Feels like a bit of a potential banana skin for the Wallabies with so much movement in the backs and Jack ‘Seiko’ Dempsey being replaced the willing but largely ineffective Hanigan BUT if the pack (which is the same as the ABs bar Ned) can boss the Japanese around and get front foot ball then the Wallabies should be OK. Enough raw power in backs to get over the gain line and look for simple off loads etc.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      I think the loosies will struggle with powder puff Hannigan playing. It’ll mean McMahon won’t get the back up to assist him in attack and I predict Mafi having a filed day. Don’t get me wrong I think they’ll win well but I really don’t get Cheika’s obsession with Hannigan. Not his fault but he’s just not up to it.

      • Hoss

        Rest easy my Shaky Isles friend

        Wallabies 55 – World War II Bronze Medalists 18

  • Simon

    Kerevi has struggled a bit at test level (or at least not recreated his Super Rugby form), I think because he’s used to just barging people but at test level he tends to come up against centres who are better defenders and of similar size to himself. The tests where he has done really well have generally been against teams like the Pumas who tend to have nimble but smaller backs.

    Japan would normally fit that bill but I can’t find anything whatsoever on Google about his opposite number Rikichi Tachikawa – in fact the only references on Google to him are this article and the equivalent on that other site. I’m assuming this guy isn’t some rugby-playing replicant developed in a Japanese stem cell lab especially for this game, so I’m assuming this is a mis-translation of Harumichi Tatekawa.

    • Bernie Chan

      At this stage he is still better at #12 than #13 though (he’ll play at #13 for the Reds as Thorn will stick to a QC-DPA-Kerevi combo with Hunt at fullback methinks…)…Japan may struggle to contain the K-K combo if indeed they have picked two flyhalves in the centres (been listening to Cheika perhaps…?), but it will matter little if our forwards don’t deliver a dominant performance, or the Phipps-Hodge combo misfires. Hope Beale fires in the #15…so Cheika keeps him there.

  • Hoss

    Has the ‘Yes’ vote passed yet ?

    If so i declare i miss Rocky Elsom.

    If the ‘No’ vote gets up then he was shit and should never have been selected.

  • onlinesideline

    I wont lie, I am busting with curiousity to see how Reece the wonderboot plays at 10.
    Im going to go out on a limb here and make a major prediction. Its all gut and not much else. My prediction for the future is … that … wait for it……..

    Reece Hodge will play the game of his life and it will be the beginning of the downfall of BF as Wallaby fly half and we will see Hodge slowly work his way into permanent 10 position. I think he will suprise evevryone, kick the freaking shit out of the ball when needed and also at times run straight through holes close to ruck and go under the posts a couple of times and / or set ppl up beautifully. His defense will be solid as f..k too. Will cause a major dilema for MC and weight of media and social media will quickly pressure MC to perist with him.

    You heard it here first folks.

    • Keith Butler

      Genia and Hodge as Rebels half backs with Koribete and Naivalu on the wings. Hmmmm. Could be good but need the forwards to back it up.

  • Adrian

    Not sure if I’ll be able to watch it.
    Maybe I’ll have to follow a blog.

    With everyone (including Folau) available, I would have said Wallabies by 35. Without Folau I would have said Wallabies by 30. With the injuries and sickness, I’m saying by 25.

    Bookmakers say 28.5.

    I don’t mind the trying guys in different positions, and I’m especially pleased that Timani is at least on the bench.

    I reckon we’ll see Beale at 5/8 in bursts…. pretty much whenever we need a try, and haven’t had one for 10 minutes

    With us having two non-kicking wingers, I’m expecting the Japanese to kick to there guys, and I’m equally expecting Korebette and Speight to run it back with interest.

Wallabies
@RugbyReg

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

More in Wallabies