The Sunwolves head into Friday’s game against the New South Wales Waratahs hoping to right a perceived wrong.
Back in Round 2 of the Super Rugby campaign on Feb. 23, the Waratahs won a thriller in Tokyo 31-30 after a last-minute piece of foul play by Tolu Latu went unnoticed by the on-field officials and TMO (television match official), much to the anger of the players.
The dangerous hit during a maul on Ed Quirk left the Sunwolves flanker needing season-ending knee surgery and eventually earned Latu a six-week suspension.
And with the infraction taking place right in front of the Waratahs’ posts, and Sunwolves flyhalf Hayden Parker having missed just one shot at goal in his last 66 attempts, the Tokyo-based side can rightfully feel aggrieved by the loss.
But head coach Tony Brown is not one for looking back. Following a lackluster 37-24 loss to the Lions last week in Singapore, he allowed his players to spend the week recovering for the clash at Newcastle International Sports Centre north of Sydney.
“It’s been a massive focus on recovery this week,” Brown said. “We’re staying by the beach so the boys have been in the ocean a bit and preparations have been going pretty well.”
Despite playing in Newcastle for the first time, Brown put aside any concerns about the unfamiliar surroundings.
“The Sunwolves play all over the world at various stadiums and at the end of the day it’s just a rugby field. But I’m sure the boys will prepare well and enjoy the occasion,” he said.
The former All Black has made five changes to his starting XV as he looks to end a run of three successive losses.
Four of those changes come in the pack. Pauliasi Manu and Jaba Bregvadze join Koo Ji-won in the front row, Uwe Helu pairs up in the second row with Grant Hattingh, and Hendrik Tui comes in at blindside flanker to play alongside captain Dan Pryor and Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco.
“Dan did a great job captaining the side (last week). He’s a natural leader and the ideal choice going into the Waratahs game,” Brown said.
The one change in the backs sees Kaito Shigeno come in at scrumhalf to partner Hayden Parker.
On the bench, Mark Abbott and Kara Pryor (who replaces Amanaki Lelei Mafi, who did not travel following issues getting a visa) are both set to make their Sunwolves debuts, while Hosea Saumaki wears No. 23 after Josh Timu aggravated an ankle injury in training.
For the Waratahs, former Kobe Kobelco Steelers back Adam Ashley-Cooper and Bernard Foley, who spent a season with Ricoh Black Rams, have both been rested as part of the World Cup player management agreement in place between the Wallabies and the Australian Super Rugby sides.