PREVIEW: Japan v Australia

Fri, 03 Nov 2017 06:10

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Wallabies star Reece Hodge will be a marked man when his side takes on Japan in Yokohama on Saturday.

With Bernard Foley out through illness, Hodge takes over the No.10 role for the clash and his inexperience will be targeted by the Japanese.

It will be the first time Hodge will start at flyhalf and Japan's head coach Jamie Joseph said they will be putting as much pressure as possible on the young star.

"He's a very good player but it's a new position for him," New Zealand-born Joseph said.

"Obviously Cheik [Michael Cheika] and the coaching team see he's got great potential, but a Test match is a Test match and we'll be putting pressure on him to see how he goes."

Japan will have a number of players from the Sunwolves in their team for the clash and Joseph feels that will help them a lot on Saturday.

"We have to get our team focused, the players that have been involved with the Sunwolves have had a lot of experience playing against the calibre of that type of player, so we've allowed them to do their own analysis of the Wallabies and we can focus on us," he said.

Joseph will also be coaching the Sunwolves next year on top of his role with his Japan. He will link up with Tony Brown to help improve the Sunwolves in Super Rugby and form a better relationship with the national side.

"A big reason why me and Tony are involved with the Sunwolves is to make sure the alignment is tighter, we can get more consistencies with a game plan and our development," he said.

"Big workload for the players and the coaches but I think that's the main reason why we got involved in Super Rugby."

Players to watch:

For Japan: Centre Timothy Lafaele is a big ball runner, while fullback Kotaro Matsushima is solid at the back. In the pack, No.8 Amanaki Mafi is one of the stars of the team with abrasiveness in open play, while captain and No.6 Michael Leitch is a good all-round player, who always gives 100 percent for his team.

For Australia: All eyes will be on Reece Hodge in the No.10 jersey, while Kurtley Beale could be lethal from the back at No15. The Wallabies also have a big midfield in the form of Tevita Kuridrani and Samu Kerevi. In the pack, captain Michael Hooper has an unbelievable work rate, while Scott Sio gives the Wallabies power in the scrums:

Head to head: Timothy Lafaele and Rikichi Tachikawa will have their hands full against Tevita Kuridrani and Samu Kerevi in the midfield. The two flyhalves, Rikiya Matsuda and Reece Hodge will also be important in trying to direct play. 

Past results:
1987: Australia won 42-23, Sydney (World Cup Pool match)
2007: Australia won 91-3, Lyon (World Cup Pool match)

Prediction: It is hard to see Japan causing an upset. The Wallabies will win by 20 points or more. 

Teams:

Japan: 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Lomano Lava Lemeki, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Rikichi Tachikawa, 11 Ryuji Noguchi, 10 Rikiya Matsuda, 9 Shiro Tanaka, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Kousaku Shinsuke, 6 Michael Leitch (captain), 5 Hell Uve, 4 Kazuki Himeno, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki.
Replacements: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Koki Yamamoto, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 Wimpie Van Der Walt, 20 Fetuani Lautaimi, 21 Yutaka Nagare, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Sione Teaupa.

Wallabies: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Reece Hodge, 9 Nic Phipps, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Lopeti Timani, 22 Joe Powell, 23 Curtis Rona.

Date: Saturday, November 4
Venue: International Stadium, Yokohama
Kick-off: 14.40 (16.40 AEDT; 05.40 GMT)
Expected weather: It will be partly cloudy with a high of 22C and a low of 14C
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Tim Baker (Hong Kong)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

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