The Brumbies cantered to a 33-0 win in Canberra last time the teams met earlier this year, and things don’t look to be getting any easier for the Japan-based side.
Sunwolves interim head coach Scott Hansen announced earlier in the week that five players would be leaving the squad to prepare for the upcoming World Cup with the Japanese development team. Rugby News Japan confirmed the five players would be prop Hiroshi Yamashita, lock Luke Thompson, loose forwards Henrik Tui and Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco and halfback Kaito Shigeno. As such, all five players have been omitted from the Sunwolves match day squad to face the Brumbies.
Yamashita has been replaced at tighthead prop with Takuma Asahara. He is joined in the front row by Nathan Vella and Alex Woonton. Thompson’s position is filled by Otago second-rower Tom Rowe and he will partner fellow Kiwi Mark Abbott to round out the tight five.
The loose-forwards receive a shake up with Warren-Vosayaco’s vacant spot taken by Toshitaka Tokunaga. Amanaki Mafi, who was close to the best player on the pitch last weekend, will also sit out the Brumbies fixture. Regular Sunwolf Ben Gunter, who just this week was deemed ineligible for Japan selection this year, will take his spot.
Jamie Booth returns to the starting side to take over from Shigeno. Other changes in the backs include Jason Emery shifting forward to centre and Semisi Masirewa taking over at fullback with Tongan-born Hosea Saumaki coming into the starting side on the left wing.
The forwards will feel the losses of Thompson and Warren-Vosayaco in particular, who have been some of the Sunwolves’ best performing players this season.
Besting the Brumbies would have been a tough ask for the Sunwolves will a full strength team but few will give them a chance now with so many of their top players unavailable.
The Brumbies are on track for the final but can’t afford to slip up, with so many teams chomping at their feet. The Sunwolves, on the other hand, need to secure one more win this season to match last year’s effort of three victories.
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