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SR18 Preview: Sunwolves vs Brumbies {24-2-18}

Sunwolves head coach Jamie Joseph has named seven debutants in his matchday 23 to take on the Brumbies at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo on Saturday. 

New Zealand duo Jason Emery and Robbie Robinson start at full-back and fly-half respectively while South African Grant Hattingh packs down in the second row.

Emery joined from the Highlanders in Super Rugby and Robinson from the Ricoh Black Rams in Japan.

South African Grant Hattingh joins from the Kubota Spears in Japan and packs down in the second row for his new side.

Meanwhile, recent signings Jaba Bregvadze (Worcester Warriors), Craig Millar (Highlanders), Asaeli Ai Valu (Panasonic Wild Knights), James Moore (Brave Lupus) and Hayden Parker (Highlanders) are also set for debuts from the replacements bench.

The Brumbies have announced a strong side for their first fixture of the 2018 Super Rugby season against the Sunwolves in Tokyo on Saturday.

Four players will make their Brumbies debuts in the starting fifteen with lock Richie Arnold, flanker Rob Valetini, number eight Isi Naisarani and winger Chance Peni all making a Super Rugby bow for the ACT side.

The robust Valetini will line up in an all-new look back row alongside Naisarani with former Olympic Sevens star Tom Cusack making his first start for the club having been a replacement on his rare appearances in 2017.

Richie Arnold will partner club co-captain Sam Carter in a mobile and powerful second row with Ben Alexander and Allan Alaalatoa packing down either side of hooker Josh Mann-Rea as Scott Sio remains in Canberra nursing a minor niggle.

Christian Lealiifano will lead the team out for the opening match of the campaign, his first start in Super Rugby since the Brumbies heartbreaking Quarter Final loss against Highlanders in July 2016, having been a half-time replacement in last season’s last-eight clash with the Hurricanes.

Lealiifano will form a half-back partnership with young Wallaby Joe Powell and the pair will be aiming to release a backline stacked with potential. An all-international centre pairing of Kyle Godwin and Tevita Kuridrani bring power and guile to the midfield with three genuine finishers in the back-field.

Henry Speight and new-boy Chance Peni will run out with 2017 breakthrough star Tom Banks in a back three that should provide plenty of pace and the important knack of knowing the way to the try-line.

New scrum-half Matt Lucas is named amongst the finishers on the bench with Lachlan McCaffrey also poised for a return to Super Rugby action in Brumbies colours following a spell overseas at London Welsh and Leicester Tigers.

Following a pre-season campaign that saw a comfortable win over the Rebels in Queanbeyan and a good second half display against the Chiefs on the Sunshine Coast, hopes are high for the squad who landed in Tokyo Wednesday morning.

Previous results:

2016: Brumbies won 66-5 in Canberra

The teams:

Sunwolves: 15 Jason Emery, 14 Lomano Lava Lemeki, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Hosea Saumaki, 10 Robbie Robinson, 9 Yutaka Nagare (c), 8 Willem Britz, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Kazuki Himeno, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Jiwon Koo, 2 Ho Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 James Moore, 20 Edward Quirk, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 Sione Teaupa

Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Chance Peni, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Tom Cusack, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Richie Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Ben Alexander
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Faalelei Sione, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 Lachlan Mccaffrey, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Wharenui Hawera, 23 Lausii Taliauli

Date: Saturday, February 24
Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium
Kick-off: 13:15 local  (04:15 GMT)
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Egon Seconds (South Africa), Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
TMO: Minoru Fuji (Japan)



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