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Former Wallabies teammates to square off in top of the table League One clash

By AAP
Bernard Foley and Matt Toomua line up for the Wallabies. Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Former Rugby World Cup teammates Bernard Foley and Matt Toomua are set to go head-to-head as the top division of Japan Rugby League One returns after a bye weekend.

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Foley’s unbeaten Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay tackle Toomua’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Sagamihara Dynaboars on Sunday.

The pair appeared for the Wallabies at the 2015 and 2019 Rugby World Cups, with Foley relocating to Japan after the latter, while Toomua joined Leicester Tigers after the 2015 event before returning to Australia to play for the Melbourne Rebels following the 2019 tournament.

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Between them, they boast 135 Test appearances, but while Foley is now a seasoned pro in the Japanese club game, Toomua has only just started after missing the first six matches of his debut season.

Without him, the Dynaboars made a strong start, going unbeaten through four of their first five, but their campaign appears to be running out of steam, conceding 81 points during heavy defeats in the last two matches.

The long-awaited appearance of the club’s prize recruit, who made his debut with 16 minutes off the bench during the recent loss to the Kobelco Kobe Steelers, is timely.

This is especially so given the Spears, and in particularly Foley, are flying. Second on the table, Kubota are riding high off the back of Foley’s goal-kicking, with an 80 per cent success rate positioning him as the competition’s top point-scorer to this stage of the season.

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Foley was third last year, on a table headed by All Black utility back Damien McKenzie.

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Although just a point behind the leaders, the Spears will be chasing a bonus point win to stay close to the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights, who will be try-hunting on Saturday against Will Genia’s winless Hanazono Kintetsu Liners.

That match is one of four tomorrow, with fourth playing fifth when the Yokohama Canon Eagles meet Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo.

Canon lost star halfback Faf de Klerk after 27 minutes of their last match against the Ricoh Black Rams, but his withdrawal after a head knock was just precautionary, and he is back on deck for what promises to be a close contest against a well performed opponent.

Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath, who narrowly beat Toshiba in the recent Fuchu derby, should be too good for the battling Black Rams while Steve Hansen and Michael Cheika will reprise their roles from the 2015 Rugby World Cup final, when Toyota Verblitz hosts NEC Green Rockets Tokatsu.

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The pair are Directors of Rugby at the respective clubs, but while Hansen’s ninth-placed Toyota have underwhelmed with just two wins from seven so far, the former All Black coaches’ problems are mild compared to those of his ex-Wallaby sparing partner, with Cheika’s side winless in six.

Even worse, they have failed to score in their last two-and-a-half matches.

The final match of the round is Sunday’s mid-table clash between the Shizuoka Blue Revs, led by Springbok loose forward Kwagga Smith, and Kobe, who have Rugby World Cup-winning Black Ferns mentor Wayne Smith as a coaching advisor.

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finn 10 hours ago
Massive red flag raised by weakened Champions Cup teams – Andy Goode

I wonder if the problem of some teams not taking it that seriously would be helped by making performance in the champions cup count towards qualification and/or seeding in the following year’s competition. Eg. top four seeds would be winners of the URC, premiership, and top 14, plus best performing team in the previous year’s CC who have not otherwise qualified. Doing that the seedings for this years comp. would have been: Tier one: Saracens - Munster - Toulouse - la Rochelle Tier two: Sale - Stormers - Racing 92 - Leinster Tier three: Leicester - Connacht - Bordeaux - Exeter Tier four: Northampton - Ulster - Lyon - Sharks Tier five: Harlequins - Glasgow - Stade Francais - Edinburgh Tier six: Bath - Bulls - Toulon - Ospreys The competition would probably work better with fewer teams, so I’d probably favour only the first 4 tiers being invited, and then going straight to a quarter final without a round of 16. On the one hand this would possibly incentivise teams to take the champions cup seriously, and on the other it would mean that the latter stages would be more likely to involve teams that have demonstrated a willingness to take the competition seriously. The main differences between my proposed system and the actual draw is that mine would give la Rochelle a fairly easy ride to the quarters, and would either exclude the Bulls entirely or would give then an insurmountably difficult draw. As it happened Exeter got quite an easy pool draw but that was a bit of a fluke. My system would reward Exeter for being one of the teams that demonstrably devote a lot of attention to the CC by guaranteeing them a good draw.

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