19:24 28 February 2017
Rugby: New boy Taulagi included in Sunwolves squad to play Kings
By Rich Freeman
TOKYO, Feb. 28, Kyodo
Jamie-Jerry Taulagi became the 54th player to be contracted to the Sunwolves for the 2017 Super Rugby season, the club announced Tuesday.
And such are the injury problems at the team, the 23-year-old fullback was immediately included in the 29-man squad that will travel to Singapore to play South Africa's Kings on Saturday.
Taulagi, who moved to Japan last year to play for Munakata Sanix Blues, has 10 Super Rugby caps to his name from his three-year spell at the Reds and his inclusion comes with Riaan Viljoen the latest to join a huge injury list.
"Three of our fullbacks have gone down with injuries and are in the reconditioning program," head coach Filo Tiatia said after Tuesday's training session at Tatsumi Rugby Ground. "Taulagi played really well in the (warm-up game) for the (Top League) All-Stars so we are excited to add him to the group."
Viljoen, flanker Malgene Ilaua and flyhalf Hikaru Tamura all failed to finish last Saturday's game against the Hurricanes, and the three will remain in Japan with the other walking wounded to recondition and recover.
"Hikaru took a bang to the head and can't do contact work until Friday," Tiatia said. "We could have taken him but it was a bit of a risk so he will stay here. But he will be the first one out if we pick up any more injuries."
With Tamura joining his older brother Yu on the sidelines, Tiatia has brought in Jumpei Ogura and Hayden Cripps, who missed the season opener after picking up an injury in the warm-up game.
Whichever of the two gets the No. 10 jersey is likely to partner veteran scrumhalf Fumiaki Tanaka, who was pronounced fit to go following a calf strain.
Tanaka won 45 Super Rugby caps while he was with the Highlanders and his experience will be much needed as the Sunwolves look to bounce back from their big loss at the hands of the defending champions.
"It's always good to have quality players like Fumi in the squad," Tiatia said. "He helps the young guys around him and understands what is required when playing Super Rugby."
Center William Tupou has also recovered from injury and is included among the backs, replacing Ryohei Yamanaka, who drops out of the squad.
In the forwards, props Yusuke Niwai and Yasuo Yamaji, flanker Uwe Helu and No. 8s Yoshitaka Tokunaga and Shuhei Matsuhashi could all make their Super Rugby debuts if they make the cut for the 23-man match-day squad.
"I expect them to bring youth and exuberance," Tiatia said when asked what he expected from the two No. 8s.
The game in Singapore is one of three the Sunwolves will play this season at their second home and Tiatia said the side had already put last Saturday's 83-17 defeat behind them.
"The boys are bubbly and excited to play the Kings. A lot of the guys haven't been to Singapore before so it's another thing they can tick off the list."