Rugby World Cup 2011: New Zealand vs. Japan Preview
The Rugby World Cup arrives in Hamilton on Friday night, with the All Blacks taking on Japan.
It is the first of a double-header this weekend for the city that also plays host to the much-anticipated Wales vs. Samoa clash on Sunday—a match that will likely decide a quarterfinal spot from Pool D.
The All Blacks' second match of the tournament will feature a significant milestone, with captain Richie McCaw becoming the first-ever player to reach 100 test matches for New Zealand.
He will lead a team that features eight changes from the 41-10 opening win over Tonga, including Colin Slade at first five who replaces the injured Dan Carter.
The All Blacks' coaching staff has been questioned for their lack of commitment to a first-choice team, and the strong performance of some fringe players in the Tonga match—along with yet another new-look side named for this week—only strengthens that debate.
Ninety-eight-test veteran Mils Muliaina returns for one last game at Waikato Stadium and will be seeking a big performance as he looks to shake off the challenge of Israel Dagg for the fullback spot.
Centre Conrad Smith and hooker Keven Mealamu are also back, while Adam Thomson returns from injury and will play at No. 8. Lock Sam Whitelock, halfback Andy Ellis and wing Cory Jane will also get their first starts of the tournament.
Japan won a lot of respect after they pushed France mightily close in their first match, playing a fast-paced attacking brand of rugby that delighted the crowd at North Harbour Stadium.
Former All Black great John Kirwan has done a terrific job with the Japanese side since taking over as head coach in 2007, adopting the effective high-tempo game plan, which suits his fit and agile squad.
The Brave Blossoms' courageous effort against the French was just one of many exciting matches already in the tournament in what has been a brilliant spectacle of rugby union so far, with the supposed minnow nations more than matching the top-ranked sides.
Organisers and fans alike will be hoping that it continues.
The last time these two sides met at a Rugby World Cup was in 1995, when the All Blacks famously crushed Japan by a record 145-17. But Japan has come a long way in the last 16 years and, as they showed in their outing against France on Saturday, they have the potential to give the All Blacks a good run for their money.
However, Kirwan has decided to rest several key players for the match, including New Zealanders James Arlidge and Ryan Nicholas, as they clearly have one eye on their final two games against Tonga and Canada.
With All Blacks' starting positions up for grabs, expect New Zealand to run away with a comfortable win.
Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Brad Thorn, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (c), Adam Thomson, Andy Ellis, Colin Slade, Richard Kahui, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Cory Jane, Mils Muliaina. Replacements: Andrew Hore, John Afoa, Ali Williams, Victor Vito, Jimmy Cowan, Piri Weepu, Sonny Bill Williams.
Naoki Kawamata, Yusuke Aoki, Nozomu Fujita, Hitoshi Ono, Toshizumi Kitagawa, Itaru Taniguchi, Michael Leitch, Takashi Kikutani (c), Atsushi Hiwasa, Murray Williams, Hirotoki Onozawa, Yuta Imamura, Koji Taira, Takehisa Usuzuki, Taihei Ueda. Replacements: Hiroki Yuhara, Kensuke Hatakeyama, Yuji Kitagawa, Sione Talikavili Vatuvei, Tomoki Yoshida, Shaun Webb, Alisi Tupuailai.
What is the duplicate article?
Why is this article offensive?
Where is this article plagiarized from?
Why is this article poorly edited?