Heading into the second half of the season with a full team back.

The Japan Rugby League One returns to its regular schedule in March. Unlike the first three months, which featured seven matches, the second half begins with a challenging stretch of nine games over ten weeks.

At the end of the seventh round, Toyota Verblitz stands in fifth place with four wins and three losses. The Wild Knights and Brave Lupus lead the standings with unbeaten records, followed by Sungoliath in third place with five wins and two losses. Spears, Verblitz, Steelers, and Eagles are all closely trailing with four wins and three losses each, with Spears holding fourth place on points differential. For Verblitz, the back-to-back matches against Steelers and Spears immediately after the restart will be crucial in their bid to break into the top four.

During February, the team focused on refreshing and addressing the issues that emerged in the first half of the season. Steve Hansen, the director of rugby who had returned home due to family reasons before the season started, rejoined the team in mid-January to resume his coaching duties. Despite suffering comeback losses against the Wild Knights and Brave Lupus, with no additional points scored in the second half, the bye weeks were dedicated to refining their attack. Additionally, the squad depth has been bolstered by the return of key members.

Prop Yusuke Kizu and lock Daichi Akiyama, who missed the early games, made their season debuts in the match against Honda Heat on February 17th. Kizu showcased his strength in scrums and contacts, while Akiyama contributed in line-outs and breakdowns. With the return of these two experienced players with Japanese national team caps, the forward pack has gained further depth. The following day in the Mirai game (second team), scrum-half Kaito Shigeno, who had sustained a shoulder injury during the autumn Barbarians series, also made a comeback. By creating a strong momentum to drive the forwards, he too made his presence felt. The scrum-half position will be highly contested among Aaron Smith, Kenta Fukuda, and Jongchu Ryang. Additionally, lock Ryoma Nishimura, Tom Robinson, flanker Masato Furukawa, among others, also expressed themselves to earn their League One spots. Players like prop Genki Sudo and fly-half Beauden Barrett, who were sidelined in the first half of the season, are also expected to return in March, nearly making the main squad fully available.

Furthermore, emerging talents have made their presence known. Wing Yuichiro Wada made his debut against Honda Heat, joining the competition for the wing position alongside Taichi Takahashi, Viliame Tuidraki, and Yuki Okada.

Moving forward, starting from the match against Steelers on March 3rd, the team faces four consecutive matches, followed by a five-game stretch with a one-week break in between. These upcoming days will be challenging for both players and staff. To achieve success in these periods, the team needs the ability to make adjustments, to stay mentally tough, and most importantly, depth in the squad where any player can step up and deliver consistent performances. Having fewer injured players at this stage provides a significant advantage.

Head coach Ben Herring expressed confidence, stating, "We were aware of the season schedule in advance, so we’ve prepared accordingly. We are ready for these battles." During the three-week break due to the cross-border matches, captain Kazuki Himeno mentioned, "We looked into ourselves," emphasizing the need for sharpening the team’s skills. "The break was about honing our abilities. We feel like we're heading in the right direction," he added, showing no hesitation.

For new signings like scrum-half Aaron Smith and fly-half Beauden Barrett, this period has provided an opportunity for both refreshment and better integration into the team. Their true worth will be demonstrated during the series of consecutive matches. Successfully overcoming the consecutive matches as visitors at the Hanazono Rugby Stadium will lead them to a showdown against Sungoliath at the Toyota Stadium. With the support of the Volts behind us, the team aims to accelerate their momentum to new heights.




  • 1000 / 1000