Shuhei Matsuhashi has been named in the starting XV of a Sunwolves squad for the first time in 18 months, as Scott Hansen opts to select him at openside flanker for the Chiefs match. The decision follows Ed Quirk’s injury in the dying embers of last weekend’s agonising defeat to the Waratahs, who has since been diagnosed with medial collateral ligament damage in his right knee and expected to miss multiple rounds of the competition.
Ricoh forward Matsuhashi is one of six changes that Hansen has made from last weekend’s defeat in Tokyo, with Japan speedster Jamie Henry also coming into the team for his first appearance of the Super Rugby season. Henry will be no stranger to facing New Zealand opposition having been born and raised in Auckland, along with also scoring a try against the All Blacks in Yokohama four months ago.
With Henry and Gerhard van den Heever on the wings, Sunwolves will again aim to move the ball away quick from the breakdown with scrum half Kaito Shigeno key to their gameplan against the Chiefs. Former Hurricanes scrum-half Jamie Booth is poised to make his Sunwolves debut off the bench, replacing Shigeno.
Michael Little, who made it into last season’s Super Rugby team of the season, is also handed his first start of the season. He comes into the side at the expense of Ryoto Nakamura, who made the crucial interception leading to Sunwolves’ first try last weekend, but has not travelled with the squad to New Zealand for the next two rounds of the competition.
There are two changes in the front row, with experienced Super Rugby prop Pauliasi Manu and Atsushi Sakate replacing Craig Millar and Jaba Bregvadze respectively, with Millar now ruled out for 3-4 months after dislocating a bone in his left foot. Uwe Helu is preferred in the second row over Tom Rowe, who drops to the bench.
In the Chiefs camp, Japan international Ataata Moeakiola has dropped to the bench to face the Sunwolves after scoring his first Super Rugby try last weekend in his side’s somewhat surprise defeat to the Brumbies. Brodie Retallick meanwhile has been named as a replacement after playing the full 80 minutes last weekend.
This will be the third meeting between the two teams, with Chiefs winning both encounters to date.
Sunwolves were narrowly defeated 27-20 in Hamilton back in 2017 when fielding a weakened side. Chiefs then put nine tries on Sunwolves in March last year as they put the Wolves to the sword in Tokyo.