Jamie Joseph made five changes to the Sunwolves starting XV Thursday as Japan’s Super Rugby franchise looks to bid farewell to its Tokyo faithful with a win over the Reds on Saturday.
The Sunwolves (0-9) head into the Round 13 game against the Queensland-based side with just two “home” games remaining in Hong Kong and Singapore and four games in Australia.
Coming off a bye weekend that followed a 43-15 loss to the Hurricanes in Wellington, Joseph said the key to beating the Reds was “tackling their big men and prevent them from creating momentum.”
Saturday will be Joseph’s penultimate game in charge before he takes a break to concentrate on the national side’s preparations for June tests against Italy and Georgia.
Tony Brown will act as head coach for the game against the Rebels on May 25 in Melbourne, while Scott Hansen will be in charge for the match against the Brumbies in Canberra on June 3.
“The players understand it is the last game of the season in Tokyo,” Joseph said. “I think the fans deserve a good performance as do the players who have put in a lot of hard work.”
In the forwards, former Reds flanker Edward Quirk replaces Pieter “Lappies” Labuschagne, whose contract with the Sunwolves only ran until the end of April, while Michael Leitch returns to the side, after suffering a broken rib against the Chiefs in Round 9.
“It’s good to have Leitch back with his quality and leadership,” said Joseph.
Quirk and Leitch line up with Kazuki Himeno in the back row, while Wimpie van der Walt joins Grant Hattingh in the second row, after James Moore was ruled out with concussion.
The front row of Craig Millar, Shota Horie and Takuma Asahara remains the same.
“We want to keep as much consistency as we can,” Joseph said.
In the backs, captain Yutaka Nagare returns at scrumhalf to partner Hayden Parker with Michael Little and Timothy Lafaele keeping their spots in the centers.
Semisi Masirewa is handed the No. 15 jersey with William Tupou ruled out with a hamstring injury, while Kenki Fukuoka and Hosea Saumaki swap the No. 11 and No. 14 jerseys on the wings.
On the bench, Yusuke Niwai, Shintaro Ishihara and Hencus van Wyk provide the front-row cover with Uwe Helu and Yoshitaka Tokunaga the two other reserve forwards.
Fumiaki Tanaka, Yu Tamura and Jason Emery are the backup backs.