Former Pumas star to face Blues in Japan

Generic Rugby v4

The competition, with games played under trial conditions, allowing extended benches, is a result of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the New Zealand and Japan Rugby Unions. It will see more frequent association between sides from the two countries. The All Blacks will play Japan on October 26, and the Māori All Blacks will play a Japan XV on June 29.

On Sunday, the Chiefs will play Japan League leaders Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights in Yokohama.

Sanchez, who scored 941 points in 110 Tests, will make his first appearance in Japan. He was signed after former Auckland and Chiefs Super Rugby player and Welsh international Gareth Anscombe was injured and released from his contract.

Another player of note in the Sungoliath side is Brave Blossoms wing Kotaro Matsushima, a 55-Test veteran, who has played in France's Top 14.

The home team will be captained by former Reds lock Harry Hockings. Last season, he made the most tackles across the three divisions of the Japan league. He is seen as a prospective Japan Test player when qualifying.

Blues assistant coach Paul Tito said the Auckland-based side knew how challenging their Japanese tour would be.

"We're going over to test ourselves against a quality outfit, and for us, it's a chance to get into some game situations and start to develop as a team.

"We're in a privileged position to be heading to Japan – a lot of the boys haven't been there before. As well as the rugby, we'll get in extra meetings and like with any tour, it'll bring us closer. It's all about the little connections."

The Blues starting XV is: 1.Joshua Fusitu'a, 2.Kurt Eklund, 3.Angus Ta'avao, 4.Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 5.Sam Darry, 6.Adrian Choat, 7.Anton Segner, 8.Hoskins Sotutu, 9.Sam Nock, 10.Stephen Perofeta, 11.Kade Banks, 12.Leo Gordon, 13.Corey Evans, 14.Caleb Tangitau, 15.Cole Forbes.

Extended bench: Ricky Riccitelli, Soane Vikena, Jordan Lay, Marcel Renata, PJ Sheck, Laghlan McWhannell, Josh Beehre, James Thompson, Taufa Funaki, Lucas Cashmore, Alex Harford.  

Former Crusaders and Australia coach Robbie Deans's Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights lead the Japan League and feature long-serving hooker Shota Horie, 37, who has Super Rugby experience with the Rebels and Sunwolves. He is playing his last season.

Two Australians who have qualified for Japan are lock Jack Cornelson, the son of Greg Cornelsen, who scored four tries against the All Blacks in their win at Eden Park in 1978, and centre Dylan Riley, the top try-scorer in this year's League.

Cornelsen played in each of Japan's Rugby World Cup games last year and now has 20 Tests on his belt. Riley is two Tests behind after earlier playing Under-20s rugby for Australia.  



View all