Japan face Classic All Blacks in World Cup Warm up

As part of their warm-up preparations for the World Cup Japan play two matches this week against the Classic All Blacks, studded with the stars of not so long ago.

Japan have chosen a 40-man squad as their coach, All Black great John Kirwan, gets his men ready. They have had two easy matches recently, beating Korea (82-0) and Hong Kong (73-3) in the Asian Nations Cup. From 40 players Kirwan will trim his squad down to 30 for the Pacific Nations Cup.

The Classic All Blacks are bristling with talent, even if it is on the old side. They do have one player in his twenties -flank Sam Harding, but they are players most of whom have been in top action recently and should be too good for Japan.

They have three top flyhalves – Andrew Mehrtens who has recently completed a season with Harlequins, Tony Brown who will play inside centre and Carlos Spencer, recently of Northampton Saints, who will be at fullback. Jonah Lomu is there though his health problems have curtailed his participation. Others are Justin Marshall, 42-year-old Sevens genius Eric Rush, Jeff Wilson, Jamie Joseph, Joe McDonnell, Gordon Slater, Matt Sexton, Royce Willis, Simon Maling, Charles Riechelmann, Scott Robertson, Ron Cribb, Mark Robinson, Scott McLeod, Mark Ranby, Bruce Reihana, Jeff Wilson, Kupu Vanisi, Paul Thompson and Pita Alatini

Their management is also star-studded – Sean Fitzpatrick and Andy Haden and coaches Peter Sloane and John Hart.

Fitzpatrick said: “We are old friends with John Kirwan, so this is a good opportunity to help them gauge where they are at in their game. It is a stepping stone for Kirwan!”

When asked how fit the Classic All Blacks are, Fitzpatrick said: “Both games are important. I will have the most fit guys on the field first. I hope I do not have to put on my boots.”

Lock Hitoshi Ono will captain Japan in Wednesday’s match instead of Takuro Miuchi, who will captain the Cherry Blossoms at the World Cup.

There are three New Zealanders in the side – No. 8 Hare Makiri, lock Luke Thompson and flyhalf James Arlidge.

It is a fairly inexperienced side. Flank Hajime Kiso has 26 caps, the most of any player. The oldest player is loosehead Tatsukichi Nishiura at 31.


365 Digital

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