Preview: Sunwolves v Chiefs

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Thursday, March 22, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match details:
Sunwolves v Chiefs, Tokyo, 5.15pm, March 24.

Played: 1
Won: Sunwolves 0 Chiefs 1
Last time: Sunwolves 20, Chiefs 27 at FMG Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, April 29, 2017

The Sunwolves may have produced one of their best performances in pushing the Lions all the way before losing 38-40 last weekend, but that hasn't stopped coach Jamie Joseph making 10 changes and two positional changes to his side. Captain Willie Britz is back from the bench to play No.8 resulting in Michael Leitch moving to blindside flanker against the team he made 34 appearances for. Ed Quirk has been named on the openside flank. At lock Uwe Helu returns from a broken arm while the complete front row has changed with Keita Inagaki, Shota Horie and Hencus van Wyk being selected. While in the backline the halfback-first five-eighths Fumiaki Tanaka and Yu Tamura return while Kotaro Matsushima moves from fullback to right wing and Ryuji Noguchi will start at fullback. The Chiefs have given Marty McKenzie a start at fullback allowing brother Damian to return to first five-eighths. Lock Tyler Ardron will start, the first by the Canadian for the side. Taleni Seu returns to the loose forwards while Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi will start at halfback. Wing Toni Pulu has recovered from injury for his first start of the season while Mitchell Karpik is on the bench as loose forward cover. The Sunwolves have lost all four games to date, against the Brumbies (25-32), the Rebels (17-37), the Sharks (22-50) and the Lions. The Chiefs lost their first game to the Crusaders (23-45) but beat the Blues (27-21) and the Bulls (41-28).

Joseph said the Sunwolves needed to play at an intensity equal to that the Chiefs would play at. "So as coaches we have used new players coming in to provide that intensity," he said. He added that the side would have a specialist first five-eighths for the first time since round two. Front rowers Inagaki and Horie had been through two weeks of hard training and would provide them with experience and energy.

Making their first appearance in Tokyo, the Chiefs are expecting the Sunwolves to be a tough proposition. At the same time coach Colin Cooper said: "We're always seeking to create healthy competition amongst our group of men and there are a few players who have really put their hand up by training the house down these past few weeks. It's great to be able to reward that effort with an opportunity. This is only game four in what is a hugely demanding competition so we're focusing on managing our players – particularly Liam [Messam] and Tiaan [Falcon], who are both going extremely well but are carrying some niggles. Liam's leadership is critical to our group and we want to keep him fresh and hungry with some big derby matches in the coming weeks."
Sunwolves wing Hosea Saumaki, is known as the 'Tongan Godzilla' and while he may have played only two games so far he is a player to watch. He's made an average gain of 11m per carry to date, the most of any player to have made a least 20 carries in the 2018 campaign and has beaten 18 defenders, two more than the Chiefs' best, Damian McKenzie. A former Tongan Sevens representative he has been compared to Jonah Lomu, Nemani Nadolo and Julian Savea.

The Chiefs have won 10 of their last 12 games outside New Zealand, including their last three games. (Opta)
1.Keita Inagaki, 2.Shota Horie, 3.Hencus van Wyk, 4.Kazuki Himeno, 5.Uwe Helu, 6.Michael Leitch, 7.Edward Quirk, 8.Willem Britz (captain), 9.Fumiaki Tanaka, 10.Ya Tamura, 11.Hosea Saumaki, 12.Michael Little, 13.Timothy Lafaele, 14.Kotaro Matsushima, 15.Ryuji Noguchi.

Substitutes: 16.Yusuke Niwai, 17.Craig Millar, 18.Jiwon Koo, 19.Wimple Vanderwalt, 20.Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 21.Yutaka Nagare, 22.Robbie Robinson, 23.William Tupou.

Chiefs: 1.Aidan Ross, 2.Nathan Harris, 3.Angus Ta'avao, 4.Brodie Retallick, 5.Tyler Ardron, 6.Lachlan Boshier, 7.Sam Cane, 8.Taleni Seu, 9.Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 10. Damian McKenzie, 11.Solomon Alaimalo, 12.Johnny Faauli, 13.Anton Lienert-Brown, 14.Toni Pulu, 15.Marty McKenzie.

Substitutes: 16.Liam Polwart, 17.Karl Tu'inukaufe, 18.Jeff Thwaites, 19.Michael Allardice, 20.Mitchell Karpik, 21.Brad Weber, 22.Sean Wainui, 23.Bailyn Sullivan.