PREVIEW: Sunwolves v Blues

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Thursday, April 12, 2018    Getty Images

Match details: Sunwolves v Blues, Tokyo, Saturday, 3.05pm

Played: 1
Won: Sunwolves 1, Blues 0
Last time: Sunwolves 48-21 Blues, Tokyo, July 15 2017

The Blues form is well known to all fans with their win over the Lions ranking as their only success so far this season. They leaked 63 points against the Sharks two weeks ago in a lamentable defensive display but picked that up last week when pushing the Chiefs all the way. However, reduced to 14-men they conceded a penalty try and another win went begging. The Sunwolves are the only winless team in the competition although they also gave the Lions a hurry up going down 38-40 in their best effort of the season at Ellis Park. No surprises for guessing that the Sunwolves management will be looking to knock off their old All Blacks team-mate Tana Umaga's men for their first win of the season.

With six tries, one a game so far this season, No.8 Akira Ioane has showed how much his game has advanced but with stability returning to the Blues pack, especially now that tighthead prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi is back in harness and with Kara Pryor providing some experience on the flank, there is the chance that Ioane can exert his dominance against a Japanese side down on some of the international experience they have fielded in earlier games. No Michael Leitch and with Willem Britz coming off the bench, the chance is there for Ioane to utilise his explosive skills to provide genuine thrust for the Blues.


Coach Jamie Joseph was always a canny customer when running the Highlanders, and even as far back to his days with Wellington. Therefore it must be wondered if there is more to his selection to meet the Blues than meets the eye. Some of the bigger names in his squad are not included in the starting XV. Is it just a case of injury issues or does the Japan international coach have something else up his sleeve? It could be seen as a test for the players likely to feature in the side's international programme to see how they handle the starting roles against one of the competition's lesser lights in the Blues. Whatever it is, the challenge is ahead for the Blues to make their own statement.


Don't be surprised if the Blues look to work their lineout advantage to the maximum against the Sunwolves. The home team on Saturday have a lineout success rate of 78 percent compared to the 91 percent the Blues have enjoyed. And with lock Patrick Tuipulotu celebrating his 50th game there is plenty to hope for from the Blues big men. Fellow lock Josh Goodhue has also been making a mark this year and with blindside flanker Jimmy Tupou and Ioane at No.8 there are plenty of options for the Blues to employ.


The Sunwolves have hosted three games against New Zealand sides and their only victory was over the Blues last year. Their two other games resulted in losses by more than 50 points.

1.Craig Millar, 2.Shota Horie, 3.Jiwon Koo, 4.James Moore, 5.Grant Hattingh, 6.Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 7.Pieter Lappies Labuschagne, 8.Kazuke Himeno, 9.Yutaka Nagare (captain), 10.Yo Tamura, 11.Lemeki Lomano, 12.Michael Little, 13.Timothy Lafaele, 14.Semisi Masirewa, 15.Kotaro Matsushima.

Substitutes: 16.Jaba Bregvadze, 17.Shinatar Ishihara, 18.Nikoloz Khatiashvili, 19.Wimpie Vanderwalt, 20.Willem Britz, 21.Fumiaki Tanaka, 22.Hayden Parker, 23.William Tupou.

Blues: 1.Pauliasi Manu, 2.James Parsons (captain), 3.Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 4.Patrick Tuipulotu, 5.Josh Goodhue, 6.Jimmy Tupou, 7.Kara Pryor, 8.Akira Ioane; 9.Jonathan Ruru, 10.Stephen Perofeta, 11.Matt Duffie, 12.Rieko Ioane, 13.Orbyn Leger, 14.Jordan Hyland,15.Michael Collins.
Substitutes: 16.Matt Moulds, 17.Ross Wright, 18.Mike Tamoaieta, 19.Ben Neenee, 20.Dalton Papalii, 21.Sam Nock, 22.Bryn Gatland, 23.TJ Faiane