All Blacks' control, pace to prove decisive
November 1, 2013
Jeffery Toomaga-Allen is one of the inexperienced players looking to press his claims against Japan © Getty Images
Japan begin their build-up to staging Rugby World Cup 2019 by hosting the All Blacks in their first full international at home in Tokyo on Saturday.
HEAD TO HEAD: Played: 2 New Zealand 2 Japan 0
LAST TIME: New Zealand 83-7 Japan, Waikato Stadium, September. 16, 2011
WALKING WOUNDED: Loose forward and captain Richie McCaw, who will play No.8 in Tokyo, and fly-half Dan Carter making their way back into Test rugby from injury, while Dominic Bird is named to debut after injury denied him match play during the ITM Cup.
FORM: Japan finished fourth in the Pacific Nations Cup that ended in June, beating United States 38-20 in their final game having previously lost 27-17 to Tonga and 22-8 to Fiji 8-22 while beating Canada 16-13. New Zealand are undefeated this year, but they have made significant changes to the line-up this time around. That will create its own incentives for those named to do the job and to keep the winning record intact.
WE THINK: Japan will come out firing - they always do - but superior All Blacks control up front and pace through the flanks will tell in the long run. It would be a great public relations exercise if the home team were to get close, but it is difficult to see - even with the All Blacks reduced in capacity. It will be interesting to see how Dominic Bird shapes in his debut appearance; equally it will be fascinating to see how Japan contain the danger that Frank Halai will represent. The game is also important for Ben Smith, who makes another outing at centre in preparation for the tougher Tests that lie ahead. The battle in the loose should be fascinating; having to cope with both McCaw and Sam Cane will be an issue for most teams in the world let alone Japan.
Enter the Autumn Internationals Fantasy Game © Scrum.com
WE PICK: All Blacks by 40.
Japan: Ayumu Goromaru; Toshiaki Hirose (captain), Male Sau, Craig Wing, Kenki Fukuoka; Harumichi Tatekawa, Fumiaki Tanaka; Ryu Koliniasi Holani, Michael Broadhurst, Hendrik Tui; Hitoshi Ono, Shoji Ito; Kensuke Hatakeyama, Shota Horie, Masataka MikamiReplacements: Yusuke Aoki, Yusuke Nagae, Hiroshi Yamashita, Luke Thompson, Takashi Kikutani, Kosei Ono, Yu Tamura, Yoshikazu Fujita.
All Blacks: Beauden Barrett; Charles Piutau, Ben Smith, Francis Saili, Frank Halai; Daniel Carter, Tawera Kerr-Barlow; Richie McCaw (captain), Sam Cane, Steven Luatua; Dominic Bird, Jeremy Thrush; Ben Franks Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett. Replacements: Andrew Hore, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Charlie Faumuina, Brodie Retallick, Luke Whitelock, Aaron Smith, Tom Taylor, Ryan Crotty.
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Follow live text commentary of the Test between Japan and New Zealand on Saturday, November 2 from 5.30pm (NZDT), 3.30pm (AEDT) and 4.30am (GMT)
A preview of the 2014-15 Aviva Premiership season as we run the rule over Bath, Exeter Chiefs, Gloucester, Harlequins, Leicester Tigers and London Irish
Concussion specialist Dr Ryan Kohler warns of the dangers of pushy parents who want their kids back on the field ahead of time
ESPN looks at the forthcoming season of the Guinness PRO12 and assesses how each of the 12 teams will do
"Like the Treaty of Versailles, despite all the promises, the new Participation Agreement is certainly not the final solution." John Taylor writes