Japan eyeing Rugby Championship invite

Australian-raised back-row warrior Ben Gunter has made an impassioned plea for the Brave Blossoms’ inclusion into the Rugby Championship after Japan almost pulled off a historic win over the Wallabies. Gunter was immense as a late try to Wallabies debutant Connal McInerney clinched a 32-23 victory for Australia over Japan in Oita on Saturday. After […]

Japan eyeing Rugby Championship invite

Australian-raised back-row warrior Ben Gunter has made an impassioned plea for the Brave Blossoms’ inclusion into the Rugby Championship after Japan almost pulled off a historic win over the Wallabies.

Gunter was immense as a late try to Wallabies debutant Connal McInerney clinched a 32-23 victory for Australia over Japan in Oita on Saturday.

After stunning Scotland and Ireland en route to the 2019 World Cup quarter-finals in front of their delirious home fans, the Brave Blossoms threatened another famous boilover after pulling to within four points of the Wallabies with the clock winding down.

Asked by AAP if Japan should be welcomed into a new-look Rugby Championship after cementing their place in the world’s top ten, Gunter’s response was an emphatic yes.

“One hundred per cent, mate,” Gunter said.

“Today was our first game from being apart, being separated – we all had a bit of time off – and that’s our first game back and we did really well.

“Obviously we didn’t get the result that we wanted but it shows that the Japanese level of rugby now is very competitive.

“Like, we are taking it to tier-one teams. We don’t look at them as though they’re going to smash us. We look at them as like we can beat these teams week in, week out.”

The Rugby Championship currently features Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina, with SANZAAR this year announcing that the world champion Springboks had committed until at least 2030.

The Boks opted out in 2020 because of the global pandemic, raising doubts after their ongoing participation amid speculation that South African Super Rugby franchises were considering joining an expanded PRO14.

But while South Africa is in the same time zone as the UK, Japan also seems a good fit for the southern hemisphere’s Rugby Championship.

“The other thing is, too, we play very exciting rugby,” Gunter said.

“We like to keep the ball in play and I think that’s what fans want to see.

“They want to see the ball in play, non-structured rugby, offloads, the kicking game.

“So 100 per cent Japan can easily compete with these teams at that level so they should be invited to those championship games and stuff.

“If you ask anybody, mate, everyone’s keen to see the Japanese style of rugby.”

Wallabies captain Michael Hooper said it was above his pay grade to make such calls but claimed – tellingly – that the pace of Saturday’s game was “more up-tempo than some of the Rugby Championship games”.

“Definitely not the New Zealand games,” Hooper said.

“(But) Japan are just a side that are improving out of sight.”

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said the only way was up for the Brave Blossoms.

“They’re a good side. They’ve got outstanding staff who have developed genuine depth,” he said.

“They’re only going to get better, I think.

“They’re certainly worthy of where they are sitting in the world and it’s certainly great that they’re playing a lot of tier-one nations now compared to what they were doing two or three years ago.”

Source : The Roar More   

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ANALYSIS: ‘Special K’ quality missing from scratchy Wallabies in Japan

Running on without their ‘Special K’ quality in Japan completely changed the potency of the Wallabies, who face three tough battles to find a Test win in Europe. Let’s give huge credit to the rise of Japanese rugby for getting as close as 32-23 when the Australians made hard work of their Saturday afternoon Test […]

ANALYSIS: ‘Special K’ quality missing from scratchy Wallabies in Japan

Running on without their ‘Special K’ quality in Japan completely changed the potency of the Wallabies, who face three tough battles to find a Test win in Europe.

Let’s give huge credit to the rise of Japanese rugby for getting as close as 32-23 when the Australians made hard work of their Saturday afternoon Test in Oita.

At 14-3 and 27-13, the Wallabies had big chances to kick clear early in both halves. And should have.

Lack of precision from the men in gold and the fight of the Japanese combined to draw the scores back closer than they should have been.

The biggest takeaway was just how much the Wallabies missed the blunt force trauma that Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete inflict on opposition sides.

Winger Koroibete’s damaging running and work rate won’t be back but the good news is that centre Kerevi has time on his side to get his injured ankle right.

Unusually, the Wallabies now go into a week off before zeroing in on beating the tricky Scots at Murrayfield on November 8 (1.15am AEST).

With no Kerevi to rampage in midfield from inside centre in Oita, it changed the whole dynamic of the Wallabies’ backline.

Flyhalf Quade Cooper suddenly didn’t have the sidekick to spear a pass to so he could run the ideal inside line to set up the Andrew Kellaway try that helped beat the Springboks on the Gold Coast last month.

(Photo by Kenta Harada/Getty Images)

Cooper tried to do more to compensate. Sometimes, it was excellent like the little, one-handed inside ball for the Tom Wright try.

Other times it was scrappy, like that cut-out ball that became the seven-point intercept try which closed the game into a tight, late contest.

Give Cooper some credit. He tried far more and took more risks against a weaker side with a return of his one-handed pop passes and may shelve them again against Scotland.

Equally, outside centre Len Ikitau was more dangerous when the focus was on Kerevi and Cooper could cleverly use him as a variety option.

The Cooper-Hunter Paisami-Ikitau formation just didn’t have any smoothness.

The Wallabies were coming off a break so you have to look through a little rust to see the positive parts.

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They used the short side. They used the inside ball far more than early in the season. Both are essential weapons if you want to beat Scotland, Eddie Jones’ England or Wales.

One partnership that gets better and better is the Michael Hooper-Rob Valetini segment of the back row. The back row is still missing a third wing because Rob Leota, Lachie Swinton and others just haven’t nailed down the wide-open blindside flanker role.

No.8 Valetini bobbed up in the Taniela Tupou try. Cooper is now searching for Valetini as a runner and he’s finding that big body under the modified afro on the inside and outside. There’s always go-forward. That is a big 114 kg-plus to throw at the Scots.

Taniela Tupou of Australia scores a try

(Photo by Kenta Harada/Getty Images)

The sight of Reece Hodge with his right arm in a sling after suffering a pectoral injury means we are going to see plenty of chances for Jordan Petaia in Europe.

He looked accomplished against Japan. He gobbled all the high balls that came his way. He was one of the most dynamic with his few chances in attack and there wasn’t a wasteful 50-50 pass or loose carry.

I loved the finish to the Test because it had some old-school quality with the rampant jersey-swapping and the heartfelt “well done” between Darcy Swain (Australia) and Ben Gunter (Japan).

Not so long ago they were both playing school rugby for Brisbane Boys’ College. Now they are thriving as Test forwards. The grin between them showed they knew exactly how far they have come.

I was in Yokohama when the Wallabies carved up the Japanese 63-30 in 2017.

To now lose by just nine points is how much the home-town heroes of the 2019 Rugby World Cup have improved in four years and it’s genuine.

That’s great news for world rugby to have another rising force that plays so differently. Great news for the Wallabies would be getting Kerevi back for the Scotland Test and winning the easiest of their match-ups in Europe.

Source : The Roar More   

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