Defending champions Saitama Wild Knights will aim to dictate the contest through their forward pack when they battle Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay in the Japan Rugby League One final, captain Atsushi Sakate said Friday.

The 29-year-old hooker will pack down in Saturday's championship decider at Tokyo's National Stadium as part of an imposing Wild Knights front row, also featuring Japan teammate Keita Inagaki and former Brave Blossoms prop Asaeli Ai Valu.

"I want to battle head-on from the outset," Sakate said. "We do not plan on losing the physical battle."

Saitama Wild Knights captain Atsushi Sakate (L) and Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay captain Harumichi Tatekawa pose with the Japan Rugby League One trophy at Tokyo's National Stadium on May 19, 2023. (Kyodo)

Veteran prop Inagaki returned to the starting lineup for Robbie Deans' side last weekend in their 51-20 semifinal win over Yokohama Eagles after missing the last two rounds of the regular season, and he made his presence felt as the Saitama pack dominated.

He aims to play "high-level rugby fitting for a final" as Wild Knights gun for their third straight title, including their 2021 triumph in the predecessor Top League competition.

"It's down to whether we can execute all the things we've been putting together," Inagaki said following practice Thursday. "This is what we've been preparing for."

The Wild Knights XV will also feature two other stars of last Saturday's semifinal victory, fly-half Rikiya Matsuda and winger Marika Koroibete.

Wallaby speedster Koroibete shook off health concerns after hurting himself running into a wall during his three-try performance against Yokohama at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.

With the deepest squad in the league, Saitama can afford to bring the likes of Brave Blossoms Shota Horie and Takuya Yamasawa off the bench.

Saturday's final features the top two teams from the regular season. Saitama's only blemish was a 44-25 upset against Shizuoka BlueRevs on April 15 while Inagaki was sidelined. They finished one point ahead of Spears, whose only regular-season loss came at the hands of Wild Knights on March 4.

Spears head into the final after extending their winning streak to seven games following a gutsy 24-18 semifinal victory over last season's runners-up, Tokyo Sungoliath.

Coached by Frans Ludeke and boasting international stars such as Springbok forward Malcolm Marx and Wallaby playmaker Bernard Foley, they are aiming for their first championship, including the Top League era.

"We plan to go all out," Spears captain Harumichi Tatekawa said. The veteran center also said he wanted to win for former Spears players who experienced tougher times while the club was outside the top division.

"I want to channel some of their frustrations when we play," he said.

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