Match details: All Blacks v Japan, Saturday 29 October, 6.50pm NZT, Japan National Stadium, Tokyo.
Last time: All Blacks 69, Japan 31 (3 November 2018)
Referee: Nika Amashukeli (GRU)
Assistant Referee 1: Jordan Way (RA)
Assistant Referee 2: Graham Cooper (RA)
TMO: Marius Jonker (SARU)
NEW AND RETURNING FACES
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Stephen Perofeta have been included in the run-on side for the first time, playing at second-five eighths and fullback respectively. Tuivasa-Sheck has been named in the midfield alongside Braydon Ennor. Halfback Finlay Christie has been named to play his second Test in the number nine jersey, while Aaron Smith provides cover. If required to take the field, Smith will equal Dan Carter as the sixth-most capped All Black with 112 Tests. The side also features the return of Anton Lienert-Brown. The 56-Test midfielder missed the start of the international season due to a shoulder injury and, after being named as midfield cover, is in line to earn his first cap since November. Six players have been retained from the team’s win over Australia in Auckland, which clinched the Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship.
MEMORIES OF A 100-POINT FIESTA
Fans and players alike will have happy memories of the last clash between the All Blacks and Japan in 2018. Exactly 100 points were scored as the All Blacks powered home 69-31. In a pulsating game, Japan put five tries on the All Blacks through their trademark fast tempo, skillful offloading, and intricate set plays. The All Blacks scored 10 tries of their own in a game which had fans on their feet for the entire 80 minutes. Just three survivors have been named in the All Blacks 23 from that game – Dane Coles, Richie Mo’unga and Tyrel Lomax.
NEW MID-FIELD COMBO
Although Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Braydon Ennor will be starting in the midfield together for the first time, as part of the All Blacks squad in 2022 they have already developed a combination acting as opposition in training. Former NRL star Tuivasa-Sheck said 2022 had been a huge year for his development and learning in rugby union and the Japan Test would be another big step. "There's a lot of people that have played their role and helped me get to starting in the Test match, so I'm grateful for that, and am looking forward to going out there and performing, and making sure I get my job done,” Tuivasa-Sheck said.
All Blacks Head Coach Ian Foster said Japan had gained some quality scalps in recent seasons, and if they can impose their style on opponents, they could cause teams issues. "Their whole game is about pressure and forcing you to think fast and move away from the things you want to do. We're aware that this is a team that will have its moments in this Test match and we've got to be able to deal with those."
A big part of the Brave Blossoms success over recent years has been their high tempo style of play which keeps the ball in play, stretches defensive lines and creates space out wide for their potent back three. This has been evident in 2022 with Japan ranking in the top three for tries scored (3.8 per game), defenders beaten (21.8 per game) and metres gained (507 per game) among tier one nations. With a sell out crowd on hand at the National Stadium in Tokyo, expect Japan to fully embrace their attacking style of play against the All Blacks.
TEAMS (Test caps in brackets):
1. George Bower (19) 2. Dane Coles (84) 3. Nepo Laulala (42) 4. Brodie Retallick (98) 5. Tupou Vaa’i (15) 6. Shannon Frizell (21) 7. Sam Cane (85) (captain) 8. Hoskins Sotutu (12) 9. Finlay Christie (12) 10. Richie Mo’unga (41) 11. Caleb Clarke (11) 12. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (2) 13. Braydon Ennor (5) 14. Sevu Reece (21) 15. Stephen Perofeta (1)
Reserves: 16. Samisoni Taukei’aho (17) 17. Ofa Tu’ungafasi (48) 18. Tyrel Lomax (20) 19. Patrick Tuipulotu (42) 20. Dalton Papali’i (18) 21. Aaron Smith (111) 22. David Havili (21) 23. Anton Lienert-Brown (56)
1. Keita Inagaki 2. Atsushi Sakate 3. Jiwon Koo 4. Warner Dearns 5. Jack Cornelsen 6. Michael Leitch 7. Kazuki Himeno 8. Tevita Tatafu 9. Yutaka Nagare 10. Takuya Yamasawa 11. Siosaia Fifita 12. Ryoto Nakamura 13. Dylan Riley 14. Kotaro Matsushima 15. Ryohei Yamanaka
Reserves: 16. Takeshi Hino 17. Craig Millar 18. Shuhei Takeuchi 19. Kanji Shimokawa 20. Faulua Makisi 21. Naoto Saito 22. Seungsin Lee 23. Gerhard van den Heever