Japan v Australia Sat 4:40pm at Nissan Stadium, Yokohama
Australia will begin their end of season tour with a trip to the land of the rising sun to face the Brave Blossoms on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
A couple of intriguing selections from Michael Cheika in the wake of a some injuries to key players. Reece Hodge has been selected to wear the unfamiliar 10 jersey and will be handed the keys to leading the side around the park after Bernard Foley was ruled out after falling ill, the 23 year old has never started a professional rugby game at flyhalf but Wallabies management have stated they have the upmost faith in Hodge directing traffic from first receiver. Hodge will partner Nick Phipps in the halves after Will Genia succumbed to a leg injury. With Israel Folau opting out of the tour Kurtley Beale has been shifted to fullback creating an all Fijian centre pairing of Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kurindrani. Up front Ned Hanigan returns to the starting lineup at blindside flanker following the devastating injury to Jack Dempsey against the Barbarians last week. The inexperienced Matt Phillip is set to make his test debut from the pine following Lukan Tui’s withdrawl due to injury
Japanese coach Jamie Joseph has handed Kazuki Hamieno his test debut in the second row following an impressive performance last week against a World XV. A lot of Super Rugby players named that Australian fans will recognise most notably the Rebels Amanaki Mafi who has been named at the back of the scrum. The Sunwolves trio of Shota Horie, Fumiaki Tanaka and Tim Laefele will provide plenty of experience whilst Chiefs enforcer Michael Leitch will captain the side from Blindside flanker as he did on that famous afternoon in Brighton when the brave blossoms shocked the world by downing the SpringBoks.
Last time they met
September 13th 2017 – Australia 91 – 3 Japan
Stat that matters
These two nations have met 4 times in history with Australia winning all 4 encounters by an average margin of 40 points.
Amanki Mafi vs Sean McMahon
Mafi is well known to avid Australian rugby fans. The devastating backrower had an outstanding season for the Melbourne Rebels in 2017 which culminated in him being awarded the Australian Super Rugby player of the year at the John Eales Medal night. He will come face to face with former team mate and captain Sean McMahon who has shaken off injury concerns from earlier in the year to depart on possible his last ever tour with the national side after signing a 2 year deal in Japan beginning next year.
Undefeated in their last 6 matches and coming off the back of a huge Bledisloe win in Brisbane, the Wallabies are enjoying their best form since the World Cup in 2015. Michael Chieka has already stated that his goal is to end 2017 with an undefeated spring tour. After looking so promising under Eddie Jones, the Brave Blossoms progress has stalled a bit in recent times, they lost last week to a world XV 47-27 which followed consecutive defeats to Ireland in June. They have named their strongest side for some time this weekend however, and in front of a passionate home crowd they are by no means easy beats.
How it’s shaping
It’s set to be a cracking afternoon of running rugby in Yokohama and the Wolf is particularly intrigued to see how a number of key personnel changes particularly in the playmaking positions will affected the Wallabies recent red hot form. If Mafi and Leitch can continually get the Japanese front foot ball and Tanaka can unlock the speedsters’ outwide anything could happen. The Wolf is predicting it to be relatively close early on before the Wallabies put their Japanese counterparts to the sword in the final forty minutes thus ensuring a comfortable victory for the men in gold.
Wallabies by 32
Best bet: BuildABet – Either K.Beale, H.Speight, M.Korobeite to score first try – $2.30 Value bet: Wallabies to win 31-35 – $7.00