Whilst their ranking might suggest otherwise, Wallabies coach Dave Rennie is expecting a 'brutal' match with Japan to kick off their Spring Tour.
Sitting in tenth, the days of sending out a second-string side against Japan are long gone according to Rennie, with the Brave Blossoms emerging as a serious threat in World Rugby.
Whilst it may not have shown on the scoreline in 2021, Japan's impressive performances under Jamie Joseph against the British and Irish Lions has the Wallabies excited about the challenge ahead on October 23.
“They are going to be completely different (to what the Wallabies will face in Europe). They play very much a high-speed, high-skill type of game – no surprise with Jamie (Joseph) and Tony (Brown) in the mix,” Rennie told reporters on Sunday.
“We’re well aware of this. We’re going to have to do a good job around the quality of our defence and slowing their ball down to get a wall in front of them.
“We’ve got a plan about how we need to play against these guys. They’ll also kick a bit and we’ll need to as well. It should be a belter. We’re playing in a stadium that has a roof so we should get a fast track and two sides that both want to play.
“...We’ll put in the best side available.”
Rennie understands better than most the threat a Jamie Joseph-coached side can possess.
In Joseph's penultimate season with the Highlanders in 2015, his side would knock Rennie's Chiefs out of the finals on their way to their first Super Rugby title.
Having added the likes of Tony Brown and Scott Hansen to his coaching staff, Joseph's brutal and fast-paced style was noted by the Wallabies coach as they prepare for a steamy encounter in Oita.
“Always brutal, always high-paced, so I expect the same,” he commented on Joseph's coaching style. “They’ve got Scott Hansen in their mix too from a defensive point of view. A smart man, who’s worked a lot with the Crusaders. They’ve got a very good, astute coaching group.
“We know they will be very well prepared and fit. We’re expecting at 1:45 pm local time it will be very warm and we got a taste of it yesterday.
“We think we’re still growing and are excited by the challenge…What we know with them is they will spend a lot of time scouring over all our footage, looking for weak links to expose.
“The key thing is, we’ve got to try and shut down their set piece. They will have innovative plays from lineout and scrum, we’ve got to make that source of ball difficult for them.”
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The Wallabies will be without Marika Koroibete (family reasons) and Pone Fa'amausili (calf) for the Spring Tour.
Rennie also confirmed Sean McMahon will be unavailable for this week's game, having left their bubble to return to family in Japan.
Meanwhile, Samu Kerevi will be given every chance to play as he continues to recover from an ankle syndesmosis injury