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Autumn Nations Series preview: All Blacks set to take over Japan

There should be plenty of thrilling action on the bill when the All Blacks and Japan face off in their international Autumn Nations Series in Tokyo on Saturday.

Although the Men in Black head into this fixture as favourites, things haven’t gone as planned for them over the past 12 months as they have already lost four of the nine Tests played in 2022, and their preparations for this Autumn Nations Series campaign. – and especially this Event – were shaken by several retirements before their departure from New Zealand.

Despite this key in preparation, it offers opportunities for other players as a head coach Ian FosterTeam squad and former rugby league star Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Blues team-mate Stephen Perofeta will be keen to shine as the two are set to make their first Test-level debuts.

Despite their disruptive preparations for this contest, the All Blacks are still able to field a strong racing team with excitement machines like Caleb Clarke, Sevu Reece and Richie Mo’unga ready to entertain the crowd, while experienced heads like skipper Sam Cane, Brodie Retallick and Dane Coles should provide direction in what could be a tricky mission for the three-time world champions.

Although Japan head into this tie as crushing underdogs, they are not to be underestimated as they are one of the most improved teams on the international stage in recent years.

Former All Black full-back Jamie Joseph has been coaching the Brave Blossoms since 2016 and under his guidance they are renowned for punching above their weight at Test level. Since the start of his coaching reign, they have generally given a good account of themselves against more fanciful countries.

After reaching the quarter-finals at the 2019 Rugby World CupJapan continued their upward trajectory and were a regular in the top 10 of the World Rugby Test rankings.

Despite losing 2-0 to France in July, Japan were competitive in both Tests and Joseph’s troops recently played a three-game series as Japan’s XV against Australia ‘A’, which they lost 2-1.

They ended that run on a high with a memorable win that boosted their confidence ahead of this showdown with New Zealand.

The last time they met

These countries faced off in a year-end international at Tokyo’s Ajinomoto Stadium in 2018 and, as in the three previous encounters between them, New Zealand had too much firepower for the Brave Blossoms and won. a 69-31 victory. A 10-try performance from the All Blacks saw Coles, Mo’unga, Ngani Laumape (3), Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, George Bridge (2), Waisake Naholo and Matt Proctor pointing down, while fly-half Mo’unga also threw 17 points off the kick tee, with Jordie Barrett scoring with the remaining conversion. For the Brave Blossoms, Samuela Anise, Hendrik Tui, Timothy Lafaele (2) and Jamie Henry shut out while Yu Tamura added three conversions.

what they said

After finishing in style against Australia ‘A’, Japan head coach Joseph knows he will still need to improve against a team of New Zealand’s caliber.

“We focused on ourselves as a team and what we can do to create pressure and opportunities for ourselves,” he said. “The All Blacks like to control the game through the set piece, so we have worked a lot with our scrum and our line-up knowing that we are up against a very important and experienced pack who will try to dominate us up front.

“We have to manage that and then when we can create a quality ball for our full backs, as we showed against Australia A, we can also score quality tries.”

All Blacks defense guru Scott McLeod was in the Highlanders squad with Joseph and Japanese attacking coach Tony Brown a few years ago and knows what to expect from the men in red and white .

“They have a high skill level and they get the ball into space very well very quickly, and if they get their space with their skill, they can be very dangerous,” McLeod said.

“They have powerful players and quick players and the other balance of what’s familiar is that if they don’t get what they want they’re very happy to hit the ball and support their defense and then to lobby and try to get turnovers.

Players to watch

One of the promising talents in Japanese rugby is the explosive number eight Avoid Tatafuwho has come on leaps and bounds since making his Test debut against South Korea in the 2016 Asian Rugby Championship. Boasting great speed and ball-carrying ability, the Tokyo Suntory star Sungoliath can be a real handful once he’s built up a head of steam and he’ll be determined to do just that against the All Blacks.

Also keep an eye out for Tatafu’s teammate, the scrum half Yutaka Nagareand his half-back partner Takuya Yamasawa, who plies his trade with Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan’s Rugby League One competition. Nagare is an experienced campaigner, while Yamasawa is very inexperienced, but both will be crucial for the home team. Although much depends on whether the Japanese full-backs receive a quality ball from their forwards, Nagare will need to provide Yamasawa with a good front-footed ball from the base, while the young pivot hopes to make his mark with his scoring skills. game leader.

There is a lot of hype and excitement amongst All Blacks supporters surrounding the inclusion of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Stephen Perofeta, who were two of the Blues’ stars on their run to the Super Rugby Pacific final, which they lost to the Crusaders. Tuivasa-Sheck, whose only previous appearances at Test level were 10-minute cameos against Ireland and Australia, presents a point of difference to other contenders for the All Blacks inside center position. His quick feet and offloading ability will certainly put his team in the limelight, although there are concerns about his kicking and tactical play – facets that are crucial for any No.12 in the Test arena.

Meanwhile, Perofeta has only won one Test cap – in which he played for around a minute against Argentina – and, like Tuivasa-Sheck, he will be determined to show Foster that he is. belongs to this level. The 25-year-old impressed at fly-half and full-back for the Blues, earning him a Test call-up and, after kicking his heels as a squad member for the vast majority of the New Zealand’s 2022 Test campaign, he gets his chance to shine in the number 15 shirt this weekend. A brilliant counter-attacker, Perofeta hopes to give the All Blacks momentum with solid runs from behind.

Another player who will be keen to impress is Shannon Frizell, who has a chance to cement his place in the racing squad after missing the final stages of the Rugby Championship with a rib injury. The setback came at a bad time for the 28-year-old as he missed testing against Australia, but he has impressed on the blind flank so far and will be eager to pick up where he left off before. to be put aside.

Main one-on-one

While New Zealand have a clear advantage in most departments, the battle in the breakdown will also be a contested one, with the main protagonists being the All Blacks skipper. Sam Cane and veteran Japanese fullback Michael Leitch. After a slow start to the international campaign, which coincided with a few defeats for the All Blacks, Cane found his best form in the later stages of the Rugby League and it was no surprise that these fine performances helped his side to raise the title yet again. This year.

In song, the 30-year-old’s basic work is among the best in the business, while he’s also skilled as a ball carrier and in defence, and he’ll be determined to show he still has what he’s got. it takes to compete at the highest level. After missing the All Blacks’ final Rugby Championship encounter against the Wallabies at Eden Park in Auckland due to a concussion, Cane will have to hit the ground running against Leitch, who, despite his years of advancement, is still a chic back row. Leitch may be 34 but he remains one of the first names on Japan’s scoresheet. The New Zealand-born spotter is sure to hurt himself in the breakdown battle, while his experience will also be crucial for the Japanese cause.


Although the All Blacks are expected to pick up a comfortable victory, don’t be surprised if the Brave Blossoms do their name justice and shine with a spirited performance. The All Blacks will win but it’s unlikely to be as comfortable as previous fixtures against Japan. New Zealand win by 22 points.

Previous results

2018: New Zealand won 69-31 in Tokyo
2013: New Zealand won 54-6 in Tokyo
2011: New Zealand won 83-7 in Hamilton
1995: New Zealand won 145-17 in Bloemfontein

The teams

Japan: 15 Ryohei Yamanaka, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Dylan Riley, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Siosaia Fifita, 10 Takuya Yamasawa, 9 Yutaka Nagare, 8 Tevita Tatafu, 7 Kazuki Himeno, 6 Michael Leitch, 5 Jack Cornelsen, 4 Warner Dearns, 3 Jiwon Gu, 2 Atsushi Sakate (c), 1 Keita Inagaki
Substitutes: 16 Takeshi Hino, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Shuhei Takeuchi, 19 Kanji Shimokawa, 20 Faulua Makisi, 21 Naoto Saito, 22 Seungsin Lee, 23 Gerhard van den Heever

New Zealand: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Tupou Vaa ‘i, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nebo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 George Bower
Replacements: 16 Samson Taukei’aho, 17 Ofa Tu’ungfasi, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Dalton Papali’i, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 David Havili, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown

Date: Saturday October 29
Venue: Japan National Stadium, Tokyo
To start up: 2:50 p.m. local time (06:50 BST, 05:50 GMT)
Arbitrator: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)
Assistant referees: Jordan Way (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

READ MORE: Japan v New Zealand: Five talking points ahead of Tokyo clash as box office wings collide

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