Japan has Willie O’s backing

Former Australia flanker/number eight Willie Ofahengaue, widely known as Willie O, predicts minnows Japan will make life difficult for the Wallabies in their Rugby World Cup opener in Pool B come kick-off in September.

Australia’s ball-running and crash-tackling revelation of the 1991 World Cup-winning squad, believes the Japanese are a vastly improved outfit due to the influx of foreign players to their national league.

And after spending five years as a player and coach with Japanese club Kubota, Ofahengaue is convinced the two-time Rugby World champions won’t have it all their own way in Lyon on September 8.

“Japan has definitely improved since the last World Cup,” Ofahengaue told Sportal.

“There are a lot of ex-Wallabies and ex-internationals playing and coaching over there now and it’s lifted the overall standard.”

“Technically they are a lot better than they were.”

“Australia will beat them in the first game but I don’t think it will be as one-sided as people think.”

The former Wallaby powerhouse was excited by what he saw of Japan during the recent Pacific Nations Cup.

“They ended up being well beaten by Australia A and the Junior All Blacks but they were competitive for large parts of those matches,” said Ofahengaue.

“Their lack of size and condition catches up with them in the end but they will keep going all match.”

As for the Wallabies’ chances at the World Cup, Ofahengaue predicted: “I think they will go pretty well.”

“Their form during the Tri-Nations was good and you can never write Australia off in any sport.”

Tonga-born Ofahengaue has also run his eye over the Pacific nations and expects them to have a lean time at the tournament, with the exception of Samoa.

“Samoa has improved and will be competitive but I think Fiji and Tonga will struggle,” he said.

Ofahengaue scored eleven Test tries for Australia from the back of the scrum before handing over the number eight jersey to fellow Tongan Toutai Kefu at the end of 1998.

He has the somewhat rare distinction of having beaten the All Blacks more times than loosing to them.


365 Digital

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