Team Preview: SUNWOLVES

Getty Images     14 Feb 2017     Getty Images

Home: Tokyo/Singapore

Last Season: 18th


Forwards - Keita Inagaki, Masataka Mikami, Koki Yamamoto, Takeshi Kizu, Takeshi Hino, Shota Horie, Takuma Asahara, Heiichiro Ito, Koo Ji-Won, Hitoshi Ono, Kyosuke Kajikawa, Shinya Makabe, Liaki Moli, Willie Britz, Ed Quirk, Uwe Helu, Yoshitaka Tokunaga, Shuhei Matsuhashi, Malgene Ilaua, Yuhimaru Mimura

Backs - Keisuke Uchida, Takahiro Ogawa, Fumiaki Tanaka, Kaito Shigeno, Yuki Yatomi, Harumichi Tatekawa, Hikaru Tamura, Yu Tamura, Hayden Cripps, Teruya Goto, Kenki Fukuoka, Timothy Lafaele, Derek Carpenter, Yasutaka Sasakura, Kotaro Matsushima, Riaan Viljoen.


Game breaker:
Halfback Fumiaki Tanaka may be one of the smaller players in the side but his experience with the Highlanders will be invaluable for the side. He will be an important bridge between those players new to Super Rugby and the more experienced personnel, most of whom he has played with for Japan.

Key signing:
Former Blues lock Liaki Moli endured a dreadful early start to his professional career due to injuries. But he shaped well for the Sunwolves last year and will soon qualify to play for Japan. His experience in lineout play especially will be important for the side as it attempts to compete with much bigger lineout units. He is handy around the park as well and the best may yet be ahead for him.

Returning veteran:
Prop Shota Horie is a significant force in the Sunwolves squad. He is a highly-regarded player and one who will have a significant role, not only in this squad but in Japan coach Jamie Joseph's aspirations for Japan in their home Rugby World Cup in 2019. Horie did receive offers to play overseas but 2019 is his motivation and he will be invaluable in shaping the Sunwolves who have a much greater Japanese influence this year.

The Scoop:
Coach Filo Tiatia filled the assistant's role last year so he knows what he is getting into. He has taken a brave stand by selecting 10 uncapped players but he is determined to promote local talent. Only one player in the squad Ed Quirk, a former Australian Sevens player, is ineligible to represent Japan. The year will be an interesting test as the side meets all five New Zealand teams who they didn't play last year.