Rugby

Scott Hansen avoids big changes despite flat start from Sunwolves

KYODO

Sunwolves acting head coach Scott Hansen resisted making wholesale changes Thursday as his side looks to put aside a disappointing start to the 2019 Super Rugby season.

Following a flat 45-10 opening-round loss to the Sharks in Singapore, Hansen has made four changes and one positional switch to his starting XV for Saturday’s game against the New South Wales Waratahs at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.

Despite winning just 63 percent of their scrums and being penalized a number of times in the loose, the pack shows just two changes, with veteran Hiroshi Yamashita replacing Asaeli Ai Valu at tighthead prop and Tom Rowe taking over from James Moore at lock.

“We need to understand it was our first game and (while) there are a lot of things we want to fix… we need to focus on the things that will give us the quickest growth this week,” Hansen said. “The priority for us is to galvanize our set piece, understand our game on where we can influence on attack and defensively we will be better because of that first hit out.”

Yamashita packs down alongside Craig Millar and Jaba Bregvadze with Rowe partnering Luke Thompson.

“It’s a great opportunity for Yamashita,” Hansen said of the 33-year-old, who is making his first start for the Sunwolves, having played eight games for the Chiefs in 2016. “He’s played over 50 tests for Japan and it’s great for us to have him in the Sunwolves. The opportunity is there this week for him to give us that solid foundation (in the set piece).”

The back-row and half backs remain the same with Hendrik Tui, Ed Quirk and Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco up front, and Kaito Shigeno and Hayden Parker in the 9 and 10 jerseys.

In the backs, a season-ending knee injury to Rene Ranger sees Gerhard van den Heever move from fullback to wing with Jason Emery taking over the No. 15 jersey.

Ryoto Nakamura comes in at inside center to partner Shane Gates in the midfield, while Semisi Masirewa keeps his place on the left wing.

Prop Pauliasi Manu is set to make his Sunwolves debut off the bench, which also includes Moore, five Japan internationals in Valu, Atsushi Sakate, Uwe Helu, Keisuke Uchida and Rikiya Matsuda, as well as last year’s standout performer Michael Little.

“It’s giving people the opportunity to play and building our game and roster. This week this is the best group that is playing,” Hansen said of his selections.