Stand-in head coach Scott Hansen named his Sunwolves team Friday for Sunday’s Super Rugby game with the Brumbies at Canberra’s GIO Stadium.
The starting XV, which contains just three Japanese-born players, shows nine changes and two positional switches from the side that lost 40-13 to the Melbourne Rebels last weekend.
Hansen had limited resources to choose from with most of the squad’s Japan internationals in Miyazaki with Sunwolves and Japan head coach Jamie Joseph and assistant Tony Brown preparing for this month’s tests against Italy and Georgia.
Serious knee injuries to Hosea Saumaki and Michael Little, and Grant Hattingh’s concussion-related withdrawal further have decimated Hansen’s stock as the Sunwolves look to avenge their Week 2 defeat in Tokyo when the Brumbies won 32-25.
“Obviously we have a new-look side but we have prepared well this week,” Hansen said. “It’s important we focus on our performance. We understand the Brumbies are a good side but it has to be about our game and how we control that.”
Willie Britz leads the side from blindside flanker with Ed Quirk moving across to openside flanker to allow Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco to come in at No. 8.
“He is a good leader for us and I want him to lead by his actions,” Hansen said of Britz. “He’s a very experienced player so we need to draw from that as we have a lot of players who haven’t played a lot of games of Super Rugby.”
James Moore keeps his place at lock where he is joined by Sam Wykes, while the front row sees hooker Atsushi Sakate and tighthead prop Hencus van Wyk come in to join Craig Millar, who skippered the side last week.
In the backs, Keisuke Uchida and Hayden Parker keep their spots at nine and 10, respectively, while Jason Emery moves from fullback to outside center.
Harumichi Tatekawa gets some much needed game time at inside center ahead of the June tests, with Semisi Masirewa and Sione Teaupa on the wings and Robbie Robinson at fullback.
Three players on the bench are set to make their Super Rugby debuts in prop Alex Woonton, back-row forward Fetuani Lautaimi and wing Kai Ishii, while utility back Gerhard van den Heever will make his Sunwolves debut having previously played for the Bulls and Stormers.
The other back-up players are the Georgian front-row pair of Jaba Bregvadze and Nikoloz Khatiashvili, flanker Shunsuke Nunomaki and scrumhalf Kaito Shigeno.
“We have a very exciting group with lots of new players,” said Britz. “The mindset is right and the boys are focusing on putting in a good performance and getting the win.”