Japan's haven of Wallaby talent keeping Eddie Jones busy
New Wallabies boss Eddie Jones is an adviser for Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath but his attention could be elsewhere during Japan Rugby League One this weekend.
New Wallabies coach Eddie Jones might be an adviser for Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath but his attention is likely to wander elsewhere during the Japan Rugby League One campaign.
Jones could be forgiven for having half an eye on his club’s arch-rival Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights and their star winger Marika Koroibete when round five of Japan’s top-flight season kicks off on Saturday.
After being held scoreless in Saitama’s opening three matches, Koroibete sprang into life last weekend with two tries as the defending champions took down Steve Hansen’s Toyota Verblitz to retain top spot on the table.
Jones knows Koroibete’s capability well, having been on the receiving end as England coach last year when the muscular Fiji-born winger was man of the series in the Wallabies’ 2-1 mid-year defeat.
The new Wallabies boss will be hoping Koroibete – now one of his prime assets – can come through the remainder of the Japan Rugby League One season unscathed.
This starts with Saturday’s match against the improving Ricoh Black Rams Tokyo, who are coached by Aussie Peter Hewat and include one of Jones’ former England players, the Fiji-born backrower Nathan Hughes.
While it is not known if Jones will continue his long-term association with Suntory, it seems likely given he retained advisory duties while coaching England.
Jones has visited Japan since his departure from his role at Twickenham, and Sungoliath are third as they chase a fourth-straight win on Sunday against the hapless Hanazono Kintetsu Liners led by former Wallabies halfback Will Genia.
Splitting the Wild Knights and Sungoliath – last year’s finalists – on the table is Bernard Foley’s Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay, who on Saturday play the mid-table Kobelco Kobe Steelers, rumoured to be the next destination for ex-Wallabies coach Dave Rennie.
The NEC Green Rockets Tokatsu, who have Michael Cheika as director of rugby and ex-Wallabies halfback Nick Phipps on the roster, visit the much-improved Yokohama Canon Eagles and their star South African halfback, Springbok Faf de Klerk.
Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo host the stuttering Verblitz, while the fourth-placed Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Sagamihara Dynaboars meet the winless Shizuoka Blue Revs in the other games.
In the second division, Israel Folau’s unbeaten Urayasu D-Rocks will go for win number four against the Hino Red Dolphins, while Tom Banks will fancy his chances to add to his one try for the season to date when Mie Honda Heat visit the winless Shimizu Corporation Koto Blue Sharks.
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