It was a typical early season Waratahs performance to start the year last week, with good passages of play ultimately ruined by basic errors and poor discipline. The Tahs defence and goal kicking was what ultimately kept them in it before the Ice man turned to water and missed a sitter from in front.
The Tahs have travelled from the northern peninsula to the land of the rising sun, with this weeks challenge seeing the men from New South Wales facing a depleted Sunwolves side. The Sunwolves always tend to play better in front of their passionate home crowd and you’d expect those supporters to be in a particular frenzy with the aforementioned sun rising over a huge year in Japanese Rugby history.
Following two trial losses to the Brumbies and the Highlanders, the Waratahs again went down last week to the Hurricanes at a sold-out Brookvale Oval. While the Tahs did some stuff well, there was some areas of real concern – particularly the set piece which looked shaky, especially when Tolu Latu took to the field. Their defence however, looked vastly improved and only allowed the Hurricanes over the line twice across the 80 minutes, no small feat against any NZ side.
Although the Sunwolves were convincingly beaten by the Sharks last week (45-10) they actually led their South African visitors 10-3 after 15 minutes. The decision to rest all the Japanese test players for the early part of the competition is a disappointing one from the JRU and I can’t really see the Moondogs being a chance in this one. Not surprisingly, NSW have never lost to the Sunwolves with the closest games between the 2 conference rivals coming last year in Tokyo when the Tahs still racked up a half century – winning 50-29. It got even worst for the Sunwolves in Sydney in season 2018 with the home side running away with a 77-25 victory following a Semisi Masirewa red card in the first half.
Key Match Ups
Ed Quirk/Hendrik Tui vs Michael Hooper/Ned Hanigan – Two former Reds up against two current Wallabies back rowers promises to be an intriguing battle come Saturday afternoon. The Waratahs skipper was immense last week throwing himself into absolutely everything and you’d expect that lost would have hurt him more than anyone especially in front of his home crowd. Hanigan on the other hand was underwhelming and with Dempsey back fit and firing and Will Miller looking strong off the pine his spot in the side could come under scrutiny, and that’s before we even mention 2018’s best forward, Micheal Wells, who is due back from Sevens duty in a few weeks.
Hayden Parker vs Bernard Foley – Speaking of pressure one man who will be out to right some wrongs this week will be Bernard Foley. Following Quade’s masterclass in the nation’s capital on Friday night the incumbent Wallabies flyhalf failed his first test at Brookvale with his missed penalty ultimately costing the Waratahs the game. He won’t have it all his own way this weekend either coming up against former Highlanders flyhalf Hayden Parker who is a classy footballer that can punish sides who don’t take their chances.
Just the one change for the Waratahs with Kurtley Beale back in the fold and straight back into his favourite position at inside centre. This has pushed Karmicheal Hunt out one spot to 13, following his impressive Waratahs debut last week. Adam Ashley-Cooper who has been under an injury cloud following a head knock against the Canes is the unlucky man to miss out but has been named on an extended bench with Cam Clark.
Sunwolves coach Tony Brown has made wholesale changes to his side that was battered in Singapore last week. Big name recruit Rene Ranger has been ruled out for the season with an ACL rupture. This is shocking luck for the perennial battlers of Super Rugby, especially following the news their other gun signing Sean McMahon will also miss the entirety of season 2019 following surgery on his foot.
Sunwolves: 15 Jason Emery, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Shane Gates, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Semisi Masirewa, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Kaito Shigeno, 8 Rahboni Warren Vosayaco, 7 Ed Quirk, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Tom Rowe, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Craig Millar (c)
Replacements: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 Awe Helu, 20 James Moore, 21 Keisuke Uchida, 22 Michael Little, 23 Rikiya Matsuda
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Alex Newsome, 13 Karmichael Hunt, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Curtis Rona, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Harry Johnson-Holmes
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Rory O’Connor, 18 Chris Talakai, 19 Lachlan Swinton, 20 Will Miller, 21 Mitch Short, 22 Mack Mason, 23 Cam Clark/Adam Ashley-Cooper
The Waratahs will be out to prove a point on Saturday afternoon and with Kurtley Beale coming back their backline has far too much fire power for their Japanese counterparts to handle. Expect the old firm of Foley, Folau and Beale to take to Tokyo in a similar manner to that of Godzilla and lead the Tahs to their first win of the season.
Waratahs by 30…