Sunwolves using bye week to build team unity


A week after their first game in Super Rugby, the Sunwolves have a bye this weekend to reflect on what they have achieved so far and look ahead to their first overseas trip.

“Not a lot has changed around the needs of the team moving forward, but we’ve had 25 percent more time together as a squad,” head coach Mark Hammett told Kyodo News on Friday.

With just two-and-a-half weeks training behind them the Sunwolves put in a battling performance last Saturday before losing 26-13 to the Lions.

And while another game this week would have allowed the team to build on that momentum, Hammett took a philosophical approach to the way the complicated schedule has been drawn up.

“What I have learnt over many years in Super Rugby is the draw is the draw,” he said. “You need to make the best of whatever you have. Having a bye this weekend has allowed us to allocate more time to cohesion and build more structures. It’s also allowed us to do a lot of contact work and work more with the individuals.”

The only casualty of the opening week was prop Koki Yamamoto, who is expected to be out for six weeks with a hamstring injury.

Lock Hitoshi Ono was able to take a full role in this week’s training, after being given the all-clear following what appeared to be a bang to the head during the second half of the game against the Lions.

Back-row forward Tomas Leonardi, who went off injured in the Sunwolves’ only warm-up game — against a Top League XV on Feb. 13 — is, according to Hammett, a possibility for the game against the Cheetahs on March 12, “and if not Singapore will be 100 percent for the game against the Rebels (in Tokyo the following week).”

Scrumhalf Yuki Yatomi and hooker Ryuhei Arita, meanwhile, will both be assessed for long-standing injuries in mid-March.

The Sunwolves will remain in Tokyo until Thursday when they fly to Singapore for the first of three home-away-from-home games.

“It’s easy to pull out one courageous performance under adversity,” said Hammett. “Our challenge in Singapore is to back that up.”