Select Edition

Northern Northern
Southern Southern
Global Global
NZ NZ

The All Blacks influence behind Japan Rugby League One contenders

Shannon Frizell of Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo waves for fans during the NTT Japan Rugby League One match between Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath v Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo at Ajinomoto Stadium on December 17, 2023 in Chofu, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)

Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo are poised to become the second qualifier for the semi-finals in Japan Rugby League One when they take on Kobelco Kobe Steelers in a blockbuster finish to round 13.

ADVERTISEMENT

The pair will square off on Sunday afternoon in Tokyo with a win qualifying Brave Lupus for their second visit to the playoffs in three seasons, while doing serious damage to their opponents’ hopes of featuring in the competition’s knockout stages.

Todd Blackadder’s Brave Lupus have been beaten just once in 12 matches, losing 36-24 to the unbeaten Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights in a game which could prove a prelude to next month’s grand final.

Video Spacer

The Toughest Sport on Earth – Big Jim Show | RPTV

Former Wales skipper Sam Warburton joins Jim Hamilton to discuss whether rugby is in fact the toughest sport on Earth, and how it should be documented. Watch the full Big Jim Show on RugbyPass.tv

Watch now

Video Spacer

The Toughest Sport on Earth – Big Jim Show | RPTV

Former Wales skipper Sam Warburton joins Jim Hamilton to discuss whether rugby is in fact the toughest sport on Earth, and how it should be documented. Watch the full Big Jim Show on RugbyPass.tv

Watch now

Blackadder oversaw the most remarkable run by any side in Super Rugby history in 2011 when his Crusaders outfit went an entire season without playing at home – after the Christchurch earthquake wrecked the now defunct Lancaster Park – and still made it to the final.

The former All Black captain has revived the fortunes of Brave Lupus since he joined from Bath in 2019, presiding over 44 wins from 64 matches (69%), as well as taking the club to its first semi-final since 2015.

Among those wins are the last four games against Kobe, with last season’s double followed by a 46-39 win on Christmas Eve, which was notable for an astonishing four tries by the recently arrived All Black Shannon Frizell.

Fixture
Japan Rugby League One
Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo
40 - 40
Full-time
Kobelco Kobe Steelers
All Stats and Data

The 30-year-old was not known as a regular try-scorer when he joined the club, having managed just 19 from 68 matches for the Highlanders and eight in 33 test matches for New Zealand, but he has gained a taste for the goal-line in Brave Lupus colours, scoring eight from 12 appearances to rank third among try-scoring forwards in the competition.

ADVERTISEMENT

The backrower’s influence has complemented that of Blackadder’s other big name offshore recruit, All Black flyhalf Richie Mo’unga, who has more than repaid the faith of the coach who gave him his first a shot at Super Rugby as a youngster.

The most dangerous conjurer of tries in the league, with more assists than any other player, Mo’unga has also weighed in with 126 points, which included 16 in Toshiba’s earlier win over Kobe.

After their loss to third-placed Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath last weekend, Dave Rennie’s men are treading a fine line in terms of the semi-finals and could be nine points behind Yokohama Canon Eagles with three to play should they lose.

The fourth-placed Eagles open the weekend as part of a rare Friday night double, chasing maximum points against bottom side Hanazono Kintetsu Liners in Osaka, while the Wild Knights are also in action tomorrow as they seek an 18th win from their last 19 meetings with Ricoh Black Rams Tokyo.

ADVERTISEMENT

Saturday sees Shizuoka Blue Revs (6th) and Toyota Verblitz (7th) bid to keep their faint semi-final hopes alive against Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Sagamihara Dynaboars respectively, while third-placed Sungoliath should inch closer to playoffs’ confirmation with a win over 11th-placed Mie Honda Heat.

ADVERTISEMENT

Join free

LIVE

{{item.title}}

Trending on RugbyPass

Comments

Join free and tell us what you really think!

Sign up for free
ADVERTISEMENT

Latest Features

Comments on RugbyPass

FEATURE
FEATURE Ross Byrne has the grandest stage to prove his doubters wrong Ross Byrne has the grandest stage to prove his doubters wrong
Search