Craig Wing in rugby wonderland
November 1, 2013
Craig Wing starred against Wales in June © Getty Images
Craig Wing is an incisive runner for the Brave Blossoms © Getty Images
Craig Wing knows about big sporting occasions, having won the National Rugby League premiership among four grand final appearances for Sydney Roosters, and playing Test rugby league for Australia and State of Origin for New South Wales Blues; but he describes Japan's rugby Test against New Zealand as a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity".
Wing, 33, played in the NRL with South Sydney and the Roosters between 1998 and 2009 before he moved to Japan three years ago to play rugby union. He qualified to play for Japan late last year on the three-year residency rule, and he scored a try in the Brave Blossoms' 23-8 win over Wales in June.
"When I left Australia I thought any hope of representative football or anything like that was well and truly done," Wing said after being named at inside centre for the Test against the All Blacks at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo. "But when Eddie [Jones] presented me with a chance at the end of last year to play for Japan, I was so excited and pretty much said yes straight away. But I had no idea that one day I would come up against the best team in the world here in Japan. For me it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Wing remembered losing just once to New Zealand during his 19-Test international rugby league career with the Kangaroos, "but they are always big and they are always physical".
"The haka at the start of the game is a really good privilege to be in front of."
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Wing can expect more physicality from the All Blacks, even without many first-choice starters, but he is adamant that Japan will meet the challenge head-on. "They are the best team in the world for a reason, but our focus is not just to be a training run for them," Wing said. "It's not just to stand back and watch them play rugby. We want to play some rugby and have some fun too."
Several of the Japan team will be familiar to the New Zealanders as hooker Shota Horie has played for Otago and Melbourne Rebels while Fumiaki Tanaka plays for the Highlanders. New Zealand-born Hendrik Tui and Michael Broadhurst have also been named among Japan's loose forwards, while Luke Thompson is on the bench alongside former Christchurch Boys' High student Kosei Ono.
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.
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)
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