The Wallabies had a comfortable win over Japan in Yokohama.
What are we talking about after that 63-30 win?
1. Spring Tour tune-up
Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper spoke on Friday about the importance of continuing the standard the Wallabies showed in Brisbane a fortnight ago. There is still a lot of work to do - Japan racked up its highest score against Australia on Saturday, and though two tries came in the final 15 minutes, switching off is not something the Wallabies can afford to do against Wales, England or Scotland. They’ll have a lot to be happy about, but a lot to ponder on the plane to London on Sunday.
2. Hodge has future as playmaker
Reece Hodge can, and has, played pretty much everywhere in the Wallabies backline and the 23-year-old showed on Saturday that he certainly has potential at 10. The Rebel has always preferred to play the inside back positions, and has been groomed as Foley’s backup for the past three months. He made some pinpoint passes that led to tries and didn’t really put a foot wrong. Yes, it was ‘just Japan’, but a Test under his belt at flyhalf can only help his cause. Nine-from-nine off the boot a handy contribution too.
3. Polota-Nau plays out of his skin
Tatafu Polota-Nau doesn’t have a Super Rugby club for 2018 and that seems like a travesty, after his outing in Yokohama. Wherever he plays he’ll still be eligible to play for the Wallabies but the hooker will be sorely missed in the Australian domestic setup. A victim of timing and a newfound depth in the hooker spot, Polota-Nau’s future is still in limbo. What isn’t uncertain, though, is how important he is to this side now and, body permitting, going through until the Rugby World Cup.
4. Next gen get a go
Michael Cheika gave every one of his 23 a go in Yokohama and each will be better for the time. Matt Philip now knows what a Test atmosphere feels like, Samu Kerevi has another Wallabies double to his name and all of their reserves had pretty solid game time on Saturday. Given this venue will host the Rugby World Cup final and this country will be the tournament host, the whole week will have been a valuable learning curve for Australia. Bring on 2019.
5. The theatre can stay for 2019
Slow-capping scrums, playing a pulsating drum sound effect when TMO decisions are being reviewed, flag waving at every opportunity. These could be the kinds of things that make Japan’s World Cup a very special event. Though Yokohama was far from full on Saturday, the noise was amplified around the stadium when anyone cheered. As far as a World Cup final venue is concerned, it doesn’t take much to realise how spectacular an atmosphere fans would experience in Yokohama. It was a record crowd on Saturday and that will be a big learning curve for the JRFU. Some logistics may need to be tightened up - beers ran out in some parts of the stadium after just one minute of play.