Stand-in head coach Tony Brown named loosehead prop Craig Millar as Sunwolves captain Wednesday for Friday’s Super Rugby game against the host Melbourne Rebels.
With regular head coach Jamie Joseph and a number of established Brave Blossoms back in Japan preparing for tests against Italy and Georgia in June, the Sunwolves starting XV shows 11 changes and three positional switches from the side that beat the Stormers in Hong Kong last weekend.
“Obviously we have lost a few of the Japan players and we have a couple of injuries as well,” Brown said of the 23-man squad.
“We have some new fresh faces in (Shunsuke) Nunomaki and (Ryoto) Nakamura in the side and (Harumichi) Tatekawa on the bench and it’s good to start Jason Emery as well so we have some good fresh players ready to go.”
Millar joins up with Jaba Bregvadze and Koo Ji-won in the front row with James Moore and Shinya Makabe in the engine room as the front five has an entirely new look to it.
Grant Hattingh moves from lock to blindside flanker, Ed Quirk goes from 7 to 8 and Nunomaki comes in at openside flanker.
In the backs, Keisuke Uchida partners last week’s hero Hayden Parker at halfback, with Michael Little moving from inside to outside center, where he will be paired with Nakamura.
The back three sees the return of Hosea Saumaki and Lomano Lava Lemeki on the wings with Emery at fullback.
Atsushi Sakate, Keita Inagaki and Hencus van Wyk form the back-up front row with Sam Wykes and Rahboni Warren-Vosayako the two other reserve forwards.
Tatekawa, Kaito Shigeno and Semisi Masirewa are the replacement backs.
“The team’s a lot more confident after winning the last two games so we are confident we’re good enough to win as long as we prepare well and perform at our best,” Brown said.
The Rebels were 37-17 winners when the two teams met in Tokyo on March 3 and Millar is hoping to use that as motivation for the game at AAMI Park.
“We didn’t play our best game against the Rebels so it is a bit of redemption for us,” he said. “Going to Melbourne and going to their home turf, we’re in for a big physical battle and I think we’ll be up for it.”
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