Japan v Kazakhstan in Almaty (Asia5Nations)
Venue: Central Stadium
Referee: Harry Mason (Singapore)
It’s a long way between New Zealand and Kazakhstan. The rugby is also light years apart. When you consider Japan has been at a World Cup finals tournament since these two teams last met and Kazakhstan has..well.gone nowhere, its difficult to image two such sides on the same rugby paddock. Well they are and that paddock is in Almaty.
Under new coach, formerly Australian rugby coach, Eddie Jones has named the Japan side selected to travel for its first 2012 Asia5Nations game. As expected the side is somewhat different from that which went to New Zealand.
New coach of Japan Eddie Jones.
Image thanks to http://sports.yahoo.com/news/japan-name-fresh-rugby-side-face-kazakhstan-111944270--spt.html
Comment on the Japan team from ‘Yamaha Kiwi’ at http://www.fira-aer-rugby.com/forum2007/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=3675&start=225
YK is a much respected and frequent commentator on world rugby on this excellent forum. He has spent a number of years in Japan following closely the rugby in that nation
‘You'd say for starters that this team is significantly weaker than the RWC11 team. The tight five is OK and Ryuhei Arita has long been touted as a player who could be a real fixture at hooker. Of course Horie is the number one hooker at the mo and he gave the team good go forward in NZ but all too often lost the ball in contact. Arita is a physical, mobile (he was a flanker when he captained his HS team - national champs) and obviously it's taken him a while to make the switch to hooker while playing at university. Nagae was also a standout for Kyoto Sangyo Uni but has taken a few years to find his feet at corporate level but again could be a long-term find for prop and was selected ahead of RWC props although it's been a long season for them so maybe they are being rested.
The backrow is very lightweight. Ito is not big enough to be a true international No8 where that position has to be someone that has the bulk to regularly get over the gain line and so quite frankly Jones is wasting his and the team's time selecting him in the first place. I think come the pac nations we will definitely see the foreign contingent back in to bulk this area up. there are a couple of big bulky No8s in Japan that were very successful at uni level but haven't cracked it in the TL. Also looks like Jones is playing two fetchers like he did with the Wallabies, a tactic that in my opinion was never very successful. So I think he's definitely lacking some go forward. That will be ok for KAZ and UAE cos they'll be too good in the backs even if they don't get the lions share of possession but this team could be put under pressure by HKG in particular whose backs are probably now just about on a par with what Japan has selected and will fancy their chances against an underpowered forward pack as well. If Korea are fit enough and organised enough with plenty of TL players, particularly forwards, they might also give the Japanese a bit of a hard time with that game in Korea. I don't think their backs and their fitness will be up to it though.
The Japanese backs are missing the top two HBs overseas, Nicholas who gave the notoriously porous midfield defence some solidity has retired from international play and Taira's fitness was not up to speed after only just returning from an injury. Don't know much about Tamura, but I was always surprised by Kirwan's resistance in not selecting big centre Senba who doesn't have the most creative rep but was a solid defender (and in my opinion Japan needed someone like that for the RWC even just for the second string game v ABs - he would have been much better than Imamura for a start.) It'll be interesting to see how he goes and also if Goromaru at FB can bring consistency to his play. He's been in and out and on the fringes and was labelled an up and coming talent for so long but hasn't really delivered. Legend Onozawa is still there on the wing and Hirose who I've never thought that much of apart from being a reliable journeyman is on the other. I've never liked the idea of wings captaining teams either. I can't see Hirose being a long-term option so why give him the captaincy? Would've been better to go with still youngish but integral starting member Hatakeyama or veteran lock Ono if looking just short-term. Good to see SO going to Kosei Ono. I thought he displayed some nice touches and some talent in 2007 while still needing to develop quite a bit - fairly normal for a young SO. But Kirwan ditched him after 2007 which was very disappointing. Now he is at Suntory playing for a top team hopefully he'll get more opportunities to develop as well.
This team is still good enough to win the A5N comfortably though HKG might get closer than last year again though the game is in Tokyo unfortunately. The foreign legion will come back in for the Pac nations though cos this team would be soundly defeated by all three Pac Is teams if Jones kept it as is.’
The last time these two teams met Kazakhstan failed to score.
Image thanks to http://www.kaz-rugby.kz/
Comment from Ian McDowell (RiJ man in Japan)
‘In Bangkok last year Kazakhstan came as close as they ever have to Japan when they went down 61-0 after suffering much heavier defeats in the three previous meetings between these two sides. The Nomads will at least have home ground advantage in 2012 as Japan travel to Almaty for the second time after they came away with an 82-6 win in 2008. Four years on and Eddie Jones has replaced John Kirwan as head coach and in his first test in charge he has chosen a squad that is almost unrecognisable from the team that last played in Almaty with only the likes of lock Koji Shinozuka and wing Hirotoki Onozawa still in this current national side. In spite of all the changes though, Japan are still the powerhouse of Asian rugby and Kazakhstan will have their work cut out staying in touch with this new look Japanese side.’
Veteran 32 year old winger Onozawa will play his 59th test for Japan.
07.05.2011 Japan 61-0 in Bangkok (Asia5Nations)
15.05.2010 Japan 101-7 in Tokyo (Asia5Nations)
24.04.2009 Japan 87-10 in Osaka (Asia5Nations)
10.05.2008 Japan 82-6 in Almaty (Asia5Nations)
Japan Last Five
22.09.2011 v Canada D 23-23 in Napier (World Cup, Pool A)
21.09.2011 v Tonga L 18-31 in Whangarei (World Cup, Pool A)
16.09.2011 v New Zealand L 7-83 in Hamilton (World Cup, Pool A)
10.09.2011 v France L 21-47 in Albany (World Cup, Pool A)
20.08.2011 v United States W 20-14 in Tokyo (World Cup Warm Up)
Kazakhstan Last Five
14.05.2011 v Sri Lanka W 34-18 in Almaty (Asia5Nations)
07.05.2011 v Japan L 0-61 in Bangkok (Asia5Nations)
29.04.2011 v United Arab Emirates L 10-24 in Abu Dhabi (Asia5 Nations)
23.04.2011 v Hong Kong L 10-23 in Almaty (Asia5Nations)
17.07.2010 v Uruguay L 7-44 in Montevideo (World Cup Repechage)
GWC Rugby Rankings
Asia Table-Japan 1st, Kazakhstan 4th
IRB Ranking Points
Japan 69.62, Kazakhstan 53.66
Prediction: Despite fielding a fairly inexperienced side I can’t see Japan losing. I can only see a huge score! Japan by 60 points.
|14||Toshiaki Hirose (Capt.)||Toshiba|
|8||Shoji Ito||Kobe Steel|
|2||Ryuhei Arita||Coca Cola|
|16||Takeshi Kizu||Kobe Steel|
|17||Hidetatsu Tsuboi||Chugoku Electric Power|
|20||Keisuke Uchida||Tsukuba University|
|HEAD COACH: Eddie Jones|
Test debuts for Japan
Senba, Tamura, Fujii, Ito, Arita, Nagae, Tsuboi, Mochizuki, Uchida and Tatekawa.
Kazakhstan Team not yet available