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Israel Folau named to start second League One match after impressive debut

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)

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Former Wallabies star Israel Folau has been named to start his second Japan Rugby League One match after impressing in his competition debut last weekend.

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Folau he scored both of his team’s tries in his first match for the Shining Arcs Tokyo-Bay Urayasu in their dramatic 24-23 season-opening victory over the Kobelco Kobe Steelers in Kobe last Saturday.

The fixture doubled as Folau’s first professional rugby union match since his high-profile sacking from Rugby Australia in 2019.

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Kobelco Kobe Steelers vs Shining Arcs | Japan Rugby League One
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Kobelco Kobe Steelers vs Shining Arcs | Japan Rugby League One

It didn’t take long for the 32-year-old to reacquaint himself to the XV-man code, though, as he bagged the first of his two tries within 12 minutes before latching onto an Otere Black cross kick to score his second try four minutes from full-time.

Folau has since been rewarded with selection at fullback for the Shining Arcs’ round two clash against the Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo on Saturday.

Folau headlines the Shining Arcs starting side, which also features first-five Black, former Wallabies loose forward Liam Gill at No 8, ex-Blues and Crusaders lock Jimmy Tupou in the second row, and South African midfielder Shane Gates at centre.

The Division 1 clash acts as the first match of the season for the Kubota Spears, who had their season-opener against the Saitama Wild Knights cancelled due to a Covid-19 outbreak in their opponents’ squad.

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Kubota were subsequently handed five competition points, but will be eager to make up for last week’s false start with a victory over their local rivals in the Japanese capital.

Former All Blacks midfielder Ryan Crotty, who has been named to start at centre, will be key to Kubota’s, as will Brave Blossoms flanker Lappies Labuschagne and captain Harumichi Tatekawa.

Kubota have also named South African trio Ruan Botha, David Bulbring and Gerhard van den Heever as their starting locks and fullback, respectively, but will be without Springboks hooker Malcolm Marx and former Wallabies pivot Bernard Foley.

Likewise, the Shining Arcs are missing former Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw, who was also absent from last week’s clash, from their match day squad.

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Elsewhere throughout League One, Toshiba Brave Lupus have named former All Blacks trio Matt Todd, Seta Tamanivalu and Tom Taylor for their away clash against the NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes Osaka on Saturday.

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All three players will be accompanied by impressive lock partners Warner Dearns and Jacob Pierce in their bid to bounce back from last week’s 60-46 loss to Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath, but will have to do so without experienced loose forward Michael Leitch.

That task will be made easier by the absences of Springboks playmaker Elton Jantjies, who started at No 10 in the Red Hurricanes’ 43-22 defeat to Black Rams Tokyo last weekend, and Brave Blossoms loose forward Wimpie van der Walt.

The Yokohama Canon Eagles, meanwhile, are still without Springboks midfielder Jesse Kriel as they eye a second successive win to start their season when the host the Kobe Steelers at Nissan Stadium on Saturday.

The Canon Eagles will, however, have ex-Wales lock Cory Hill and powerful Brave Blossoms No 8 Amanaki Mafi in their forward pack, as well as veteran Japanese first-five Yu Tamura at No 10.

Working in their favour is the absence of former All Blacks first-five Aaron Cruden, who is absent from Kobe’s starting side after he missed what would have been the match-winning conversion in injury time against the Shining Arcs.

Nevertheless, the Steelers – whose director of rugby is ex-All Blacks coach Wayne Smith – still boast 2021 Japan representatives Ji-won Koo, Isileli Nakajima and Tim Lafaele in their match day squad.

Highlanders cult hero Richard Buckman, ex-Blues lock Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, former Chiefs wing Ataata Moeakiola and ex-Stormers second rower JD Schickerling have also been named to start for Kobe.

Shining Arcs vs Kubota Spears

Shining Arcs: 1. Anoka Shota, 2. Miura Rin, 3. Shotaro Hirai, 4. Kim Rinshi, 5. Jimmy Tupou, 6. James Moore, 7. Shokei Kin, 8. Liam Gill, 9. Atsushi Yumoto, 10. Otere Black, 11. Kazushi Hano, 12. Tone Tukufuka, 13. Shane Gates, 14. Kai Ishii, 15. Israel Folau. Reserves: 16. Ryushi Fujimura, 17. Ken Saito, 18. Syuhei Takeuchi, 19. Sam Jeffries, 20. Hiroyuki Mezaki, 21. Ryo Tsuruda, 22. Taiji Hongo, 23. Brackin Karauria-Henry

Kubota Spears: 1. Kengo Kitagawa, 2. Hiroaki Sugimoto, 3. Opeti Helu, 4. Ruan Botha, 5. David Bulbring, 6. Finau Tupa, 7. Lappies Labuschagne, 8. Faulua Makisi, 9. Kazuhiro Taniguchi, 10. Tomoki Kishioka, 11. Hirokyuki Yamasaki, 12. Harumichi Tatekawa, 13. Ryan Crotty, 14. Kazuhiro Goya, 15. Gerhard van den Heever. Reserves: 16. Kentaro Otsuka, 17. Kwanyoung Na, 18. Satoshi Saita, 19. Uwe Helu, 20. Sione Vatuvei, 21. Shinobu Fujiwara, 22. Sione Teaupa, 23. Kim Su-Ryung

NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes vs Toshiba Brave Lupus

NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes: 1. Kazuma Nishikawa 2. Franco Marais, 3. Tatsuro Sugimoto, 4. Tyler Paul, 5. Ryan Vermaak, 6. Daisuke Yokoyama, 7. Shinya Osugi, 8. Lui Naeata, 9. Akira Inoue, 10. Ei Kawamukai, 11. Larry Sulunga, 12. Mifiposeti Paea, 13. Masaki Kobayashi, 14. Koki Shigeno, 15. Taichi Toshizawa. Reserves: 16. Hiroaki Ushihara, 17. Yosuke Nishiura, 18. Kim Ryom, 19. Tatsunari Fujita, 20. Toru Sugeshita, 21. Toshihiro Yamanouchi, 22. Tonisio Vaihu, 23. Kanta Yamamoto

Toshiba Brave Lupus: 1. Yuma Fujino, 2. Daigo Hashimoto, 3. Yuta Kokaji, 4. Warner Dearns, 5. Jacob Pierce, 6. Sione Lavemai, 7. Matt Todd, 8. Hiroki Yamamoto, 9. Takahiro Ogawa, 10. Tom Taylor, 11. Taiki Matsunobu, 12. Hayato Nakao, 13. Seta Tamanivalu, 14. Jone Naikabula, 15. Takuro Matsunaga. Reserves: 16. Futoshi Mori, 17. Teruo Makabe, 18. Yuu Chinen, 19. Kyosuke Kajikawa, 20. Takeshi Sasake, 21. Jack Stratton, 22. Johnny Fa’auli, 23. Toshiki Kuwayama

Canon Eagles vs Kobe Steelers

Canon Eagles: 1. Takato Okabe, 2. Yusuke Niwau, 3. Rento Tsukayama, 4. Amanaki Saumaki, 5. Cory Hill, 6. Kobus van Dyk, 7. Naoto Shimada, 8. Amanaki Mafi, 9. Kouki Arai, 10. Yu Tamura, 11. Masayoshi Takezawa, 12. Yusuke Kajimura, 13. Naoya Minamihashi, 14. Chihito Matsui, 15. Jumpei Ogura. Reserves: 16. Shinobu Takashima, 17. Suguru Igarashi, 18. Shota Matsuoka, 19. Samuela Anise, 20. Shinichi Tanaka, 21. Kazufumi Yamasuga, 22. Viliame Takayawa, 23. Seiya Yamada

Kobe Steelers: 1. Hisateru Hirashima, 2. Ryuhei Arita, 3. Koo Ji-won, 4. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5. JD Schickerling, 6. Brodie McCurran, 7. Daiki Hashimoto, 8. Jang Seok-Hwan, 9. Atsushi Hiwasa, 10. Lee Seung-Sin, 11. Rakuhei Yamashita, 12. Ataata Moeakiola, 13. Richard Buckman, 14. Fraser Anderson, 15. Ryohei Yamanaka. Reserves: 16. Kenta Matsuoka, 17. Isileli Nakajima, 18. Hiroshi Yamashita, 19. Naohiro Kotaki, 20. Hikaru Hashimoto, 21. Daiki Nakajima, 22. Tim Lafaele, 23. Shinsuke Iseki

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