Barrett v Mo'unga showdown in Japan
PREVIEW: All Blacks teammates Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga will go head-to-head when Toyota Verblitz take high-flying Brave Lupus in Round Six of Japan League One.
On Saturday, Verblitz will seek to derail the runaway train that Todd Blackadder’s men have become.
Although Brave Lupus narrowly failed to reach the semifinals last season, their 63-25 victory over Verblitz was one of the more remarkable results from the season.
Both sides have strengthened significantly since, with All Black back row Shannon Frizell arguably the signing of the season so far. The loose forward has scored five tries from his first five outings in the Lupus jersey.
International teammate Richie Mo’unga has also made an impression, scoring his maiden try in Toshiba’s 40-12 win over Mie Heat two weeks ago. The try took Mo’unga’s point tally for the season to 54 from five outings.
Verblitz has had good value out of their star signings too. All Black scrumhalf Aaron Smith picked up two tries, while his test halfback partner Beauden Barrett has contributed 30 points from four appearances, despite not handling the kicking duties fulltime.
Barrett returns after missing the win over Liners in the last round, while Smith, who only played the first quarter of that match, is on the bench, backing up rising Brave Blossoms star Kenta Fukuda.
Kubota Spears will be hoping to bounce back against Black Rams after last weekend’s defeat to Brave Lupus.
Kobelco Steelers, currently seventh on the championship standings takes on the fourth-placed Eagles.
Spears will again be without top point-scorer and Wallaby flyhalf Bernard Foley, when they play Black Rams.
The Eagles, who are three points in front of fifth-placed Toyota Verbitz, also have injury worries, having suffered a major blow with their Springbok duo, scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and centre Jesse Kriel, both sidelined by potentially long-term injuries.
De Klerk has had knee surgery while Kriel has had an operation on a broken thumb.
Both teams will be in action in the Border Rugby on February 10, with the Spears facing the Blues, while the Eagles host the Chiefs.
Japan Rugby League One Fixtures Round Six
(all kick-offs Japan Time)
Saturday, January 27
Black Rams v Kubota Spears; 13.00
Blue Revs v Liners; 13.00
Eagles v Kobe Steelers; 14.10
Toyota Verblitz v Brave Lupus; 14.30
Sunday. January 28
Aichi v Voltex; 14.30
Saturday, January 27
Red Regulions v Hiroshima; 14.00