All eyes are on the two scrum-halves and the scrum.

On March 14th, two days before the clash against Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath at Toyota Stadium, known as the "Raijin Festival", prop Genki Sudo and scrum-half Aaron Smith attended the press conference. In place of the absent Pieter-Steph du Toit, Kazuki Himeno steps in at number 8, and Isaiah Mapusa starts at flanker. Additionally, Kaito Shigeno makes his season debut in the lineup for Kenta Fukuda, who suffered an injury in the previous match against the Spears.

Sungoliath is currently in 3rd place with 7 wins and 2 losses. Smith analyzed, “They are a well-structured team that has been very good for a long time. We know that they've got some explosive players.” The Sungoliath starting scrum-half is the national team member, Yutaka Nagare. Smith expressed his respect and anticipation for the matchup, saying, “I’m very excited for the challenge to play against him, and we will see who gets their team around the field best. I’ve played against him a couple of times, which I've enjoyed, and he's a great player and person as well.” Smith added with a laugh, “I’ll try to speak a little Japanese to him to try and stir him up.” 

For Genki Sudo, it will be a game against his former team. "I want to focus on winning the game rather than worrying about the opposition. I’ll play with respect and try to get the win.” Despite it being his former team, he approaches the match with a calm mindset, saying, "There aren't any special feelings to that extent." Sudo was injured in the game against the Liners on January 14th. He returned to play in the Mirai Match against the Steelers on March 3rd. Although he officially returned in the last game against the Spears, he stated, "I think I can deliver more. I'm at about 60%," aiming for a full performance on Saturday. "The reason for me to be selected is for my set pieces. I want to show my strength there first," Sudo added. 

After the last match against the Spears, a video of Smith humming a song while cleaning the locker room with a broom was shared on the team's social media, causing a big reaction online. When asked about it during the press conference, he said, “In New Zealand culture, we try to leave the changing room the way we found it. I think as a leader, it's key for you to be willing to do that first. It was cool to see all the boys and management help out, Steve (Hansen), (William) Tupou, and (Siosaia) Fifita…many hands make light work. I hope my singing wasn't too bad (laugh).”

Currently, the U20 Japan national team is in camp at the Toyota Sports Center. Before the training session, Smith and Beauden Barrett were seen giving advice to the young athletes who came to ask questions. “I love the game, and I'm always up for giving back to the youth and future players. I saw myself in them as they're young, excited, and driven men, and as an older player, you get a lot out of that too. It’s quite refreshing to see that look in the young men's eyes.” The 36-year-old scrum-half never stops giving.




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