Venue: Nippatsu Mitsuzawa Stadium, Yokohama
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
This is the first of the 2013 Pacific Nations Cup fixtures. Canada and the United States has been added to the 2013 schedule bringing back memories of the Pacific Rim competition of the nineties.
Tonga have a big reputation to live up to. last November they defeated Scotland in Scotland just after defeating the USA in Northern Wales. This follows a very impressive 2011 Rugby World Cup. These days Tonga has to be taken seriously. They have the disadvantage of having not played together since last November.
Japan takes the field after yet another successful Asia Five Nations Championship in they won all games by wide margins including a 121-0 win over newcomers Philippines. Although playing at home they may not be toughened up enough to handle the always abrasive Tongans.
’No real surprises as the side is pretty setttled. Toshiaki Hirose is still injured so Yoshikazu Fujita gets his first run out against non A5N opposition. If Fujita or Fukuoka from the bench do well, I'm not sure Hirose will get back in the side straight away.
In the front row, there is another chance for Hiroshi Yamashita after he was destroyed by Romania in his last start against a Tier 2 side, whilst Masataka Mikami makes his first start against non A5N opposition. This will be a big test for both of them and by all accounts they have done a lot of work with Marc dal Maso and Fabio Ongaro in training to try and improve, and now we will see whether it has worked or not.
Notably Eddie Jones seems to have purposely added size in the front five players. In November, Japan played Yusuke Nagae at loosehead, who is 5ft 7in and 105kg, one of the lightest props around. Mikami is by no means the biggest prop out there not by a long way, but he 3 inches taller than Nagae and has an extra 10 kg over him. Whilst at tighthead, the heavier 122kg prop Yamashita is selected over Hatakeyama 114kg. Whilst at hooker, the 114kg Kizu is preferred over the Aoki who is 96kg. At lock, the 118kg Makabe is also preferred to add weight in the front five.’
Beeman2 at http://www.fira-aer-rugby.com/forum2007/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=4235&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&start=60
A few milestones to watch out for in the Japan vs Tonga game. (Thanks again to Beeman2)
- Hirotoki Onozawa will become the joint most capped Japanese player of all time, equalling the record of 79 held by Yukio Motoki.
- With 6 consecutive wins Japan are currently on their joint longest ever winning streak, if they beat Tonga that will be their all time record winning streak of 7.
- Japan have scored a try in their last 49 tests dating back to 2008, if they score in this match their run will become the joint second longest run of consecutive matches scoring a try in history. Only New Zealand with 104 matches (2004-2012) going longer.
- If Yoshikazu Fujita scores, he will equal the Japanese record held by Jack Tarrant set in 2009 of most consecutive matches scoring a try from his debut with tries in his first 5 matches.
- If Kensuke Hatakeyama gets on the field he will equal the record of Shin Hasegawa and Ryo Yamamura as most capped Japanese prop of all time.
10.06.2012 Tonga 25-20 in Tokyo (Pacific Nations Cup)
21.09.2011 Tonga 31-18 in Whangarei World Cup, Pool A)
09.07.2011 Japan 28-27 in Suva (Pacific Nations Cup)
26.06.2010 Japan 26-23 in Apia (Pacific Nations Cup)
27.06.2009 Japan 21-19 in Lautoka (Pacific Nations Cup)
Japan Last Five P 5, W 5
10.05.2013 v United Arab Em. W 93-3 in Dubai (WCQ Asia; Asia 5 Nations)
04.05.2013 v Korea W 65-5 in Tokyo (WCQ Asia; Asia 5 Nations)
27.04.2013 v Hong Kong W 38-0 in Hong Kong (WCQ Asia; Asia 5 Nations)
20.04.2013 v Philippines W 121-0 in Fukuoka (WCQ Asia; Asia 5 Nations)
17.11.2012 v Georgia W 25-22 in Tblisi
Tonga Last Five P 5, W 3, L 2
24.11.2012 v Scotland W 21-15 in Aberdeen
17.11.2012 v United States W 22-13 in Colwyn Bay (IRB Int. Rugby Series)
10.11.2012 v Italy L 23-28 in Brescia
23.06.2012 v Fiji L 17-29 in Suva (Pacific Nations Cup)
10.06.2012 v Japan W 24-20 in Tokyo (Pacific Nations Cup)
Data from www.rugbyinternational.net
GWC Rugby Rankings
World Table-Tonga 10th, Japan 14th
IRB Ranking Points
Tonga 76.10, Japan 70.09
Prediction: Tonga by 8 points.
1-Eddie Aholelei (Melbourne Rebels) 2-Elvis Taione (Jersey Rugby Club) 3-Taione Vea (North Harbour) 4-Josh Afu (Kamaishi Sea Waves) 5-Tukulua Lokotui (Gloucester) 6-Hale T-pole (Southland) 7-Nili Latu (NEC Green Rockets) 8-Paula Kaho (Canberra Vikings) 9-Thomas Palu (Wellington Hurricanes Dev)
10-Fangatapu Apikotoa (Amatori Rugby) 11-Will Helu (Manly) 12-Sione Piukala (Perpignan) 13-Siale Piutau (Yamaha Jubilo) 14-Fetu'u Vainikolo (Connacht) 15-David Halaifonua (Tonga 7s)
16-Ilaise Ma'asi (CS Vienne Rugby Club) 17-Kamaliele Sakalia (Tonga A) 18-Peni Fakalelu (Pau) 19-Emosi Kauhenga (Ricoh Black Rams) 20-Viliami Fihaki (North Harbour) 21-Taniela Moa (Pau) 22-Kurt Morath (Kubota Spears) 23-Viliame Iongi (Tonga A)
15. Ayumu Goromaru (Yamaha Jubilo, 23 caps)
14. Yoshikazu Fujita (Waseda, 4 caps)
13. Male Sa'u (Yamaha Jubilo, 3 caps)
12. Harumichi Tatekawa (Kubota Spears, 13 caps)
11. Hirotoki Onozawa (Suntory Sungoliath, 78 caps)
10. Kosei Ono (Suntory Sungoliath, 17 caps)
9. Atsushi Hiwasa (Suntory Sungoliath, 21 caps)
1. Masataka Mikami (Toshiba Brave Lupus, 3 caps)
2. Takeshi Kizu (Kobelco Steelers, 16 caps)
3. Hiroshi Yamashita (Kobelco Steelers, 19 caps)
4. Hitoshi Ono (Toshiba Brave Lupus, 67 caps)
5. Shinya Makabe (Suntory Sungoliath, 13 caps)
6. Hendrik Tui (Suntory Sungoliath, 8 caps)
7. Michael Broadhurst (Ricoh Black Rams, 6 caps)
8. Takashi Kikutani (Toyota Verblitz, 57 caps, captain)
16. Yusuke Aoki (Suntory Sungoliath, 26 caps)
17. Takuma Asahara (Toshiba Brave Lupus, 4 caps)
18. Kensuke Hatakeyama (Suntory Sungoliath, 40 caps)
19. Shoji Ito (Kobelco Steelers, 11 caps)
20. Ryuta Yasui (Kobelco Steelers, 1 cap)
21. Keisuke Uchida (Tsukuba, 3 caps)
22. Yu Tamura (NEC Green Rockets, 7 caps)
23. Kenki Fukuoka (Tsukuba, 2 caps)