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Brave Lupus fired up for Fuchu derby despite Richie Mo'unga absence

Toshiba Brave Lupus' Richie Mo'unga (Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)

The absence of All Blacks fly-half Richie Mo’unga, who is on bereavement leave, shouldn’t detract from a fascinating Fuchu derby in Saturday’s headline contest in Japan Rugby League One – which can be watched live for free on RugbyPass TV.

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While both clubs are already semi-final-qualified, west Tokyo rivals Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo and Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath have a fierce rivalry that goes beyond the arrival of the semi-professional Top League in 2003.

The advent of a formal round-robin club competition in Japan 21 years ago provided an annual platform to grow the intensity of the derby on a national stage, and the antipathy has continued since the competition’s rebranding into Japan Rugby League One.

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Fiji’s Nemani Nadolo chatted to RugbyPass’s Liam Heagney recently, touching on his impressive speed and strength records.

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Nemani Nadolo’s impressive S&C records

Fiji’s Nemani Nadolo chatted to RugbyPass’s Liam Heagney recently, touching on his impressive speed and strength records.

High scoring has been a feature in recent times. Three years ago, the teams produced a ridiculous 60-46 scoreline, when tackling was ‘optional’ on an afternoon that featured 13 tries. Last season yielded eight – three by Sungoliath winger Seiya Ozaki – as his side prevailed 40-34.

While Ozaki, who was last year’s leading try-scorer with 18 and sits second this term on 12, has feasted on Brave Lupus in recent seasons, this year’s outfit is a tougher nut to crack.

Fixture
Japan Rugby League One
Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo
36 - 27
Full-time
Tokyo Sungoliath
All Stats and Data

The serial try-scorer got his side’s only five-pointer as Toshiba won this year’s first derby 26-19, and the 28-year-old will be a marked man for the repeat, having scored against Brave Lupus in four of the last five meetings.

Brave Lupus have lost just once in 14 thus far, including last weekend’s one-point win over Mie Honda Heat when coach Todd Blackadder rested many of his front-liners with one eye to what was to come.

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They have not gone back-to-back against Sungoliath since 2010/11, a statistic the club will be keen to rectify given the two could meet again in the semi-finals.

A Toshiba win would confirm second on the ladder, leaving Suntory to squabble with Yokohama Canon Eagles over who finishes third, and leave them avoiding unbeaten league leaders Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights in the knockouts.

Yokohama, who shipped 50 points against the Wild Knights in the corresponding match last term, face the unfortunate Shizuoka. The Blue Revs are unbeaten in five but sit eighth – three places below where they would be had they scored just one more point in each of their last two outings – which were drawn.

One of those was against outgoing champions Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay, whose wretched run with injuries finally cleared last weekend, allowing the rare sight of all three of the club’s internationals – Wales full-back Liam Williams, Wallaby fly-half Bernard Foley and All Black hooker Dane Coles – to appear on the same stage.

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It was too much for Kobelco Kobe Steelers, who fell from the title race following their 39-29 defeat, and flags danger for each of Heat and Suntory, who have dates with the Spears before the regular season closes.

Misfiring Toyota Verblitz can keep afloat their chance of finishing fifth when they entertain the Eagles, while Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Sagamihara Dynaboars will drop Ricoh Black Rams into the promotion/relegation series should they prevail when the two meet.

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Saturday’s final match of a day when a full round of Division One will be played sees the Wild Knights entertain one-win Hanazono Kintetsu Liners.

They will be expected to notch up win number 15 for the season even though coach Robbie Deans is resting several of his frontliners ahead of the upcoming playoffs. Incredibly, the Wild Knights have won 85 of their last 88 games in the league, with another drawn.

  • Click here to access RugbyPass TV. Its two live games this Saturday are Lupus versus Sungoliath and Verblitz against Eagles
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