Concluding the Final Home Game with a Victory.

On April 25th, the Toyota Verblitz announced the lineup for the upcoming match against the Yokohama Canon Eagles (Yokohama E) to be held at the Paloma Mizuho Rugby Stadium on the 27th.

With only two games left, the players who have previously closed out games will now take on the role of finding opportunities. Scrum-half Kaito Shigeno will make his first start of the season, with Aaron Smith on the bench. Gaku Shimizu and Yusuke Kizu will start on either side of the props, while Shogo Miura will be on the bench as number 17. Charlie Lawrence, who plays at center, is out due to poor condition and will be replaced by Yuki Okada who will make his first start of the season. Shimizu and Okada attended the press conference two days before the occasion. 

Okada, now in his sixth season with the team is referred to as the “reliable-man” in the team. Whether playing at wing or mid-field, his versatility is invaluable to the team, adapting seamlessly to any situation. He started in the first three matches of the season at wing and was involved as a reserve member during the mid-season. He returned to the squad from the 13th round against Dynaboars and will now start his fourth match of the season against the Eagles this week. 

"This season, there were games I couldn't be involved in, but whether at center or wing, I will do my job,” Okada said. He approaches each game with a consistent full commitment, but one significant change for him this season is becoming a father. "I want to show my child what it looks like to play rugby. That's been a big change," he added. He aims to continue playing until his child gets to an age where he can remember his father on the field; a new fuel to his motivation. "There are no playoffs, but these final two games are crucial for the next season. We'll get into these games with our full effort," he concluded.

Shimizu's start marks his first since the match against Brave Lupus on January 8th last season. In his second year with the team, he started the season on a high, initially coming off the bench in the opening and second rounds. He started in round three and was making steady progress, until he got a dangerous tackle at the end of the first half which led to a serious injury, dislocating and fracturing his right ankle. He underwent surgery and was diagnosed with an 11-month recovery period. He was enabled to run again in June last year. His recovery has been smooth, and he was able to start in the opening match in December this season. 

"I'm still looking after it, but I'm in better shape than before the injury," Shimizu mentioned.

Except for rounds four and five, he has been named among the reserves this season. However, in the tenth round against Sungoliath, he received a red card for a dangerous tackle at the end of the match, resulting in a two-game suspension. This is his return to the squad since then. "I regretted it, but Hikosaka joked about it saying, ‘Hey, Mr. red card,' which helped me a lot,” Shimizu said. Since then, he has worked on his tackling technique. “I’m focused on giving the team momentum through my defense," he said. "When I come off the bench in the second half, I always try and visualize what needs to be done based on the situation, but starting means I have to look for opportunities. With Shogo (Miura) behind me, I can play with more confidence,” Shimizu added.

To pave the way for the next season, Verblitz is eager to end the final home game with a victory and bring joy to the fans.




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