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Richie Mo'unga and Toshiba stand in the way of Robbie Deans' sixth Japanese title

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

Former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, and his one-time Crusaders captain Todd Blackadder, go head-to-head on Sunday as the unbeaten Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights take on Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo in the final of Japan Rugby League One.

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A victory by the Wild Knights, who are unbeaten in 17 matches this season, would hand Deans his sixth title in Japan, one more than he won during his stellar career in Super Rugby with the Crusaders.

The former All Blacks fullback won the first of those with Blackadder his captain, when the Crusaders shocked the Brumbies 20-19 on a freezing Canberra night in one of the epic Super Rugby finals.

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Fixture
Japan Rugby League One
Saitama Wild Knights
20 - 24
Full-time
Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo
All Stats and Data

While Blackadder has never beaten his good mate in four previous meetings in Japan, he has never been better ‘armed’, with seven-time Super Rugby winning five-eighth Richie Mo’unga leading the title pursuit, alongside fellow All Black, back-rower Shannon Frizell and Brave Blossoms stars Michael Leitch and Warner Dearns.

Brave Lupus suffered their only defeat of the season when the two teams met in mid-March, although a late Wild Knights try gave the result a deceptive 36-24 scoreline.

Blackadder, who hails from the same rural north Canterbury club as Deans, Glenmark-Cheviot, located a 90-minute drive north of Christchurch, twice took the Crusaders to finals when he led the club, although he is yet to win a professional club title as a coach after stints with Tasman, the Crusaders, Bath and now Brave Lupus.

The Wild Knights, who were denied by two points in last year’s decider by Bernard Foley’s Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay, are chasing a record seventh title, which would be two ahead of Brave Lupus, who last won in the 2009-10 season.

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Team Form

Last 5 Games

4
Wins
5
1
Streak
5
22
Tries Scored
22
70
Points Difference
61
4/5
First Try
3/5
5/5
First Points
2/5
4/5
Race To 10 Points
3/5

As well as three Aussie-developed Brave Blossoms representatives, centre Dylan Riley, loose forward Ben Gunter and second-rower Jack Cornelsen, Deans can call on star Springboks centre Damian de Allende and second rower Lood de Jager, alongside the wrecking ball Wallabies winger Marika Koroibete.

The day will be an emotional one for iconic Japanese hooker Shota Horie, with the 38-year-old playing his last game after a professional career which has included four Rugby World Cups, 76 Tests, over 200 games for the Wild Knights, the Sunwolves and two seasons with Melbourne Rebels.

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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