Preview: Sunwolves v Force

Date published: May 6 2016

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The Sunwolves will be seeking consecutive Super Rugby wins when they host a struggling Western Force side in Tokyo on Saturday.

The Sunwolves have been at the bottom of the Africa 1 Conference table since the opening round. Apart from their first Super Rugby victory – a forthnight ago against fellow new boys the Jaguares – they are finding it difficult to adapt to not only the speed of play but also the demanding tour itinerary after losing all of the other matches.

Michael Foley's men find themselves in similar territory, at the basement of the Australian Conference table, after eight losses from nine matches, their only victory coming against a Reds side that were struggling to find some kind of form in the opening rounds. The Brisbane side are six points ahead of the fifth positioned Force.

Players like Samoan international Tusi Pisi have been instrumental for the men from the Far East, the 33-year-old fly-half has evaded opposition with his natural flair and been in good form off the tee as well, the latter could come in handy should matters go down to the wire.

Force captain Matt Hodgson certainly has been a standout performer for the struggling Perth side. The loose forward is leading the tackle count in the competition and his remarkable defensive efforts will be welcomed against the new boys.

Despite their emphatic victory over the Argentine side, the Sunwolves missed a staggering 28 tackles, which takes this season's tally to a hefty 198 from their eight games – a number the home side will have to minimise if they are to restrict the relentless attacking onslaught from the Force.

Apart from them conceding only one penalty in the last quarter of their games, the Sunwolves' discipline has let them down in the first 60 minutes, their concession of frequent penalties will cost them dearly given the stand-in fly-half Ian Prior's form off the tee.

The visitors only managed 20 points last week against the Bulls and were made to work hard for their two tries which took them 112 carries and a staggering 360 metres to achieve.

As mentioned the men from Japan will have to minimise their penalty count by a considerable amount if they are to gain any form of momentum. The Force, on the other hand will need convert more of their possession into points if they are to exert any form of domination over the newcomers.

Players to watch: The return of top try-scorer Akihito Yamada will definitely boost the men from Japan's morale. The 30-year-old returns after a lengthy injury lay-off and the speedster will be hoping to bounce back to his previous form in front of his home crowd. Yamada has already scored five tries so far this season so the defence will have to keep a close eye on the speedy wing.

Force utility back Marcel Brache has been a silent yet effective contributor for the Australians on attack. The 28-year-old midfielder, who has made five starts for the Perth so far this season, beat three defenders and gained 50 metres during last week's loss to the Bulls.

Team news: Star winger Akihito Yamada will return for the Sunwolves this weekend as they look for a second Super Rugby win. Yamada is named in the starting XV for Saturday's game after recovering from injury, having not played for the side since their game with the Stormers early last month.

Further changes from head coach Mark Hammett see John Stewart handed a start on the wing, while Fa’atiga Lemalu gets the nod in the second-row alongside veteran Hitoshi Ono.

Tusi Pisi is partnered by Kaito Shigeno in the half-backs as Shota Horie once again leads the side at hooker.

Western Force head coach Michael Foley has made four changes to the starting XV, with Kyle Godwin to make his first start since Round One.

Godwin returns to the team at full fitness after being named on the bench for the last three rounds as he built back to top condition after injuring his knee.

In the other changes to the starting line-up Guy Millar comes into the side at tighthead, Ross Haylett-Petty comes into the second-row while Byrnard Stander will start at blindside flanker.

Form: The Sunwolves have been at the bottom of the Africa 1 Conference table since Round One. Mark Hammett's men have suffered heavy defeats, the most notable one has to be the record equalling for the highest score in the 92-17 drubbing at the hands of the Cheetahs despite their 32-31 loss against the men from Bloemfontein in the opening rounds. However, their most recent outing saw them beat the Jaguares. The Perth side have, since their 22-6 victory over the Reds in Brisbane, been on a seven-match losing streak and much like their Japan opponents, are at the foot of their Conference. The Force however nearly managed to sneak a rare victory over the Crusaders in Round Seven, but the seven-time champions edged them 20-19 in the end.

Prediction: After a hectic travelling schedule, the home side have had the luxury of not boarding an aeroplane for the past two weeks, the Sunwolves should edge the visitors by five points.

The teams:

Sunwolves: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Akihito Yamada, 13 Derek Carpenter, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 John Stewart, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kaito Shigeno, 8 Ed Quirk, 7 Andrew Durutalo, 6 Liaki Moli, 5 Fa’atiga Lemalu, 4 Hitoshi Ono, 3 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 2 Shota Horie (c), 1 Masataka Mikami
Replacements: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Ziun Gu, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Yoshiya Hosoda, 20 Taiyo Ando, 21 Atsushi Hiwasa, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Mifiposeti Paea

Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Solomoni Rasolea, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Luke Morahan, 10 Ian Prior, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Guy Millar, 2 Harry Scoble, 1 Francois van Wyk
Replacements: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Sitiveni Mafi, 20 Angus Cottrell, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Peter Grant, 23 Semisi Masirewa

Date: Saturday, May 7
Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo
Kick-off: 14:15 local (05:15 GMT)
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Referees: Paul Williams, Aki Aso
TMO: Takashi Hareda

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