The UNOFFICIAL
JAPANESE RUGBY SITE

maintained since 19 August 1996 by The Laird of Kitakyushu (Everything is here!)

乬Lang may yer lum reek!乭

(May Your Chimney Smoke for a Long Time... and may you be responsible for many conversions, both to and in the great game of Rugby! ;-)

The Web Counter says you are visitor number http://counter.digits.com/wc/-d/4/jprugby since August 19, 1996.

J Sports TV schedules

Rugby Weekly (BS Asahi, Fridays, 11.15pm – 12.00, in Japanese only)

Highlanders_jersey

The Height of Fashion: The Laird bought this jersey more than ten years ago at Global Arena in Munakata city, Fukuoka prefecture乧 it is still going strong as a practice jersey. It is more comfortable and gives more room than any other jersey I have. (The largest size Waseda Rugby jersey – bought from the Waseda Coop – was skin tight and uncomfortable.)

Go Highlanders!! Go Fumiaki Tanaka!!

;-)

Upcoming Japan games:

 Asian 5 Nations: Japan XV v Asia Pacific Dragons (April 26, Hanazono, Osaka); Japan v Sri Lanka (May 10, Mizuho, Aichi prefecture); Korea v Japan (May 17, Inchon); Japan v Hong Kong (May 25, National Stadium, Tokyo);

Test Matches: Japan v Samoa (May 30, Chichibunomiya, Tokyo); Japan v Italy (June 21, Chichibunomiya, Tokyo)

IRB Pacific Nations Cup 2014: Canada v Japan (June 7, Burnaby); USA v Japan (June 14, Los Angeles)

The 14th annual Sanix World Rugby Youth Tournament will be played at Global Arena between April 29th and May 5, 2014 (with days off on April 30th and May 3rd). If you are in the North part of Kyushu (Fukuoka prefecture) this is free rugby and of a high standard. I have been every year since it started, since I live locally. See you there!! ;-)

April 15

Eddie Jones writes from Sugadaira training camp (English below Japanese text).

April 3

Japan qualify for World Series at Hong Kong Sevens

Well Done, despite one or two glitches! And Rugby Weekly is on Fridays from tomorrow night!

HSBC Sevens World Series Round 6: Tokyo Sevens 2014 (March 22-23, 2014)

Stage Two Schedule (Top League, 2013-14)

March 17

The Japan Times featured three rugby articles at the weekend, which is a rare event, deserving praise and encouragement.However, none of them were match reports. Will they carry any of the Tokyo Sevens match reports this weekend, or just leave it to the IRB, specialist rugby websites and the websites of various unions with squads entered? Here are two historical articles written by my friend Mike Galbraith: 1866 and All That; Japanese who played rugby before 1899.  And there is also a rather silly Q & A session with Eddie Jones – talk about a wasted opportunity! 乪Be the best you can – don乫t waste a minute乫 is great advice, which one rather wishes the reporter had followed in interviewing Jones.

March 11

Well it was a final worthy of Japanese Rugby. Congratulations to both teams. Panasonic won 30-21, but it was a lot closer than some had predicted.

Last night Eddie Jones was featured in the Wairudo na yatsu (乪Passionate rugby guy乫) section of the Asahi BS (Broadcast Satellite in case you are wondering!) channel乫s Rugby Weekly, which from April 4th is moving from Mondays to the better time slot of Friday evenings. Young Eddie (well the Laird is four years older than him! ;-) does make it very clear to players exactly what he wants, he is very thorough and careful in selection and planning, and he doesn乫t waste a moment of the limited time he has with the national team squad. These things and his love of Rugby, especially Japanese Rugby, make him the Number One coach in the world.  The Laird is very glad that Akihito Yamada the supersonic, sorry Panasonic(!) winger has been brought back into the national squad frame, as he was hinting on this web page earlier that this was a good idea – whether it was the shorter haircut, as Eddie said last night, or the fact that he is simply the most agile and fastest wingman that has ever graced Japanese rugby it would be hard to say乧 (Did he get dropped earlier as a challenge to him? It seems to have worked very well if that was the idea. Surely Yamada is worth a pro contract overseas?)  ;-) 

March 4

Panasonic to play Toshiba in final

Two Japan Championships semi-finals were played at the weekend. Panasonic Wild Knights beat Kobelco Steelers easily, 46-5. There was even one try disallowed for a knock-on, which the video replay clearly showed Yamada the Panasonic wing had actually scored by applying momentary downward pressure. So the TMO got that one wrong, just as often happens in other countries where they also take their time乧 and still get it wrong!

The other semi-final was won 25-24 by Toshiba over Suntory at the death. Ryan Nicholas had the chance for a sayonara win but fortunately his penalty goal attempt was just wide. I say 乬fortunately乭 because there was no way that either Toshiba deserved to lose (after fighting back from 6-24 down) or Suntory deserved to win with their cynical fouls in the second half. It was particularly shocking to see the Suntory centre Taira, who has a stash of Japan caps and World Cup appearances to his name, holding the Toshiba full back Tachibana back by an arm around his neck – off the ball!! It was quite deliberate, and no wonder Tachibana was unhappy and lashed out with a punch which did not connect. At the same time the Suntory No. 3 was also holding onto two men off the ball. (What did the Suntory coach Okubo tell them at half time: Win at all costs, by fair means or foul??) The end result after a farcical referees乫 consultation with assistants and TMO involved was乧 a penalty to Suntory!! This they kicked for touch and then they won another penalty, the one which Nicholas missed to end the match. Thank heavens not only the referees but also the Good Lord was watching this one, and the right team won. (My suspicion is the referees felt under pressure because of the reputation of Suntory乫s famous players, and because they were going for an unprecedented fourth title in a row. This should NOT happen of course, but refs are human too!)

The other slightly worrying aspect was low attendances at both games: 3,300 at Hanazono for Toshiba v Suntory, and even less at the other one! One can only hope that the IRB top brass (Chairman M. Lapasset and the French-speaking Australian CEO were visiting) didn乫t notice this, or had the sense to turn a blind eye乧 at least for now. Still plenty of work on the grass roots required!!

 

February 27

An awful lot has happened since your correspondent last updated this page.The Laird been so busy it乫s not even funny, as his NZ cousin used to say. Congratulations to Panasonic Wild Knights for winning the Top League playoff competition. Now we look forward to the semi-finals of the Japan Championship: Suntory v Toshiba; Kobelco Steelers v Panasonic. And Eddie Jones has a bilingual commentary about the JAPAN WAY.

It was great to see Their Imperial Highnesses the Emperor and Empress Heisei at Chichibunomiya stadium last Sunday for the Yamaha v Kobelco game. It is apparently 66 years since the Emperor was last at the ground, named after the Imperial Prince Chichibu who loved rugby, and whose statue is in front of the stadium. Unfortunately Mr. Mori as Chairman of the JRFU was also present. After his recent rude and ill-considered remarks about figure-skaters Mao Asada and the Reeds, it is clear that he is much more a hindrance than a help to the JOC and the JRFU. He is the living, breathing, walking and talking embodiment of what the Japanese call 乪rougai乫 – a harmful old person. Please can somebody persuade him to put his feet up and relax, and make way for a younger, more positive and more energetic man? The Japanese who are used to Mori乫s so-called 乪gaffes乫 just shrug their shoulders and say that nothing can be done, but something really should and must be done to get this 76-year old out to pasture before he causes even more significant damage.

P.S. Of course Mori says his remarks were misconstrued!!

January 30

Sanix is coming back up to replace Kyuden after defeating Honda Heat in the battle for automatic promotion.Kyushu teams come and go quite a lot in the Top League!

And the Top League playoffs are to be broadcast in South Africa and many other nations for the first time – Great News! The eyes of the world will be on Japanese TL Rugby as never before. Marvellous!

January 21

The TL playoffs will be Kobe v Suntory and Panasonic v Toshiba. Yamaha just missed out on four tries and a dramatic last-gasp win over Suntory which would have seen them through. But they still have a chance of being one of the two wild card teams in the All-Japan Championship. Kyuden are automatically relegated. Honda Heat and Sanix will play this weekend for automatic promotion.

January 14

The university final was a cracker. Eddie Jones was apparently there, and he will have liked what he saw. Being of the 乬if he乫s good enough he乫s old enough乭 school of coaching, he has his eye on several university players (including a very tall lock at Ritsumeikan) and one or two high school ones as well. The Teikyo fly half is only a first year student! With this win Teikyo has achieved an unprecedented five championships in a row, all under Coach Iwade who is clearly a happy and very astute man.

Meanwhile Suntory became the second team to gain a place in the playoff after Panasonic. This leaves the last two places to be decided between Toshiba, Kobe and Yamaha this coming weekend.

Top Challenge Series

January 8, 2014

Happy New Year! The university final will be played on Sunday 12th between Waseda and Teikyo, who have a very heavy pack (average 105kg). Tokai Gyosei of Osaka beat Kanagawa Toin yesterday in the high school final at Hanazono.

And Panasonic have booked their place in the Top League playoff, the first team to do so. There are two more rounds left of the second stage and the points in Group A are: Panasonic 27, Suntory 23, Yamaha 18, Kobe 17, Toshiba 16, Canon 7, NEC 6, Toyota 6. So the last three playoff places are between Suntory, Yamaha, Kobe and Toshiba: the usual suspects, more or less.

In Group B Kubota leads on score difference with 23 points, then the order is: Toyota Shuttles 23, Kintetsu 21, Ricoh 15, NTT Comms 15,  Coca Cola 13, Kyuden 11, NTT Docomo 4.

Dec. 17. Some very interesting results in the Top League last weekend. In Group A Panasonic hammered Suntory, Toshiba just beat NEC, and Yamaha came from behind to beat Canon with a great forwards try. Kobe beat Toyota comfortably at home. The table in Japanese is on the TL official site here, but they don乫t offer an English version. The order for Group A is currently: Panasonic (18 points), Toshiba (14), Suntory 14), Yamaha (13), Canon (7), Kobe (7), NEC (5), Toyota (1).

In the universities championship second stage most, maybe all, of the Kansai teams seem certain to bow out. Plus ça change... For those who don乫t think university rugby is a waste of time and can read Japanese, the latest results are in pdf form here. There is one last round of the second stage this weekend. Then the semi-finals will be played on January 2nd, and the final on January 12th.

Dec. 13  Word has it that the last rugby match in the National Stadium before renovation will be a Japan game next May. As for improving university rugby, maybe the answer for the time being is more contact (coaching clinics?) between the Top League and top university teams. But this is probably happening already.

Dec. 6  There are too many stoppages in rugby, and a second referee (to add to the four officials already in place) will not speed things up, but slow them down even more. Moreover, the players are getting bigger, heavier and slower thanks to the stoppages, which are often too long as well as too frequent. It乫s all about power, and the game is dying as a result. Japan still relies on speed more than many other nations, but the overall trend is a worrying one. (See Iain Morrison in the Scotsman, and Austin Healey in the Telegraph).

Dec. 5. It is easy to criticise Japanese university rugby. For example, Meiji lost to Waseda on Sunday by sticking for the whole of the second half to their great tradition (game plan if you like) of taking the ball up in the forwards and trying to bash their way over the line. Heroic defence by Waseda kept them out, so the only points Meiji scored were through a well-taken drop goal in the first half. They should have tried at least one more drop goal, and probably more, to get points on the board.

But there is a deeper question of what university rugby is for: should it just be a cog in the wheel, supplying students as players to the Top League and national team? That is a very elitist way of looking at it, and ignores the vast majority of student rugby players. It also ignores the reasons people go to university.Yet there is no other pathway in Japan for young would-be professional rugby players, so university rugby often does get criticised by professional coaches. It is 乪a waste of time,乫 New Zealand and Australia do it better etc. Well yes, of course they do. But until there are academies in Japan (no sign of them at present) the system is not likely to change at all.

Yet I would still say I enjoyed watching the Waseda-Meiji game, and my criticisms above are wise after the event. If Meiji had managed to score a forwards try or two it could have been a win for them. Also to condemn university rugby as a waste of time seems bizarre when it gives a lot of enjoyment to many young players and there is no alternative rugby available for them. I don乫t believe Goromaru never had to make a tackle in four years at Waseda either. He needed those years to mature into the fine player he is today.

Then again, I don乫t think the university coaches (many of whom are also professionals) are as bad as some people seem to think.  The university championship is always a good standard and very competitive.

Dec. 3. Good to see Eddie Jones out of hospital and giving press conferences. His main concern is whether Japan is improving fast enough, given that other teams are improving as well. He says there isn乫t a minute to lose between now and RWC 2015. (Press conference on YouTube).

Also an interesting article in the New York Times in which university rugby and the JRFU are criticised as usual, and Suntory is portrayed as leading the way in the Top League. Change is mostly glacial in Japan, until all of a sudden... How about a Super Rugby franchise based in Tokyo? It might be the cherry on the cake, but how would the companies now owning TL clubs react to this idea? I don乫t know the answer, merely posing the question.

On Sunday (December 1) more than 49,000 people filled the national stadium to see the last rugby game there before it is rebuilt. It was Waseda v Meiji University, the traditional game called the SoMei Sen. It has been played for about 90 years, and in the national stadium since 1973. Waseda won a hard-fought game, 15-3.  The Top League still does not attract such attendances.

Nov. 20. You could say that Japan乫s loss to Scotland was predictable, given the rankings gap: Scotland is now 9th and Japan 14th. However, until the 62nd minute it was only 23-17 to Scotland and could still have gone either way. The loss against Gloucester was a bit more surprising, but I haven乫t seen the game. The win over Russia, ranked 19th by the IRB, restored predictability, but that was 13-13 at half time.

As Murakami-san pointed out on Rugby Weekly this Monday, the absence of Eddie Jones surely hurt Japan to some degree. Anyway it was good to see Yamada win his first cap on the wing against Russia.

Nov. 7. Japan team v Scotland on November 9th.

Nov. 6. Three observations about Japan v All Blacks. 1) Japan has clearly improved recently, and the score as compared with previous meetings showed this. 2) One mistake (a high ball dropped in this case) was all the All Blacks needed to open their try scoring account, and no team can afford any mistakes against the Men in Black. 3) It乫s a pity Japan didn乫t score a try at the end of the game when they came very close.

Now attention shifts to Scotland v Japan at Murrayfield on Saturday. The Scots have already named their team.

Preview – the All Blacks by 40 is the prediction.

Japan乫s selection for All Blacks game

All Blacks selection to play Japan

October 29. Former Kobe Steel and Japan wing Daisuke Ohata is now an Ambassador for RWC2019. Last night he made a guest appearance on Rugby Weekly. He is very talkative these days, and appears to have made a sports media career for himself. Anyway he remarked that, although there were several Top League jerseys and a Japan one in the studio, there was no Kobe Steel jersey! That may be rectified before next week.

Meanwhile the first stage of the Top League has finished,with the following going into Group A (the upper group): Suntory, NEC, Kobe Steel, Toyota, Panasonic, Yamaha, Toshiba and Canon. Group B consists of: NTT Comms, Toyota Shuttles, NTT Docomo, Kyuden, Kubota, Kintetsu, Ricoh and Coca Cola. The second stage will start on November 30th, so attention shifts to the Japan team for the month of November.

Japan are preparing to win (IRB website)

October 24. Who can possibly predict the outcome of the game on November 2nd? Score predictions range from 100 points plus to the visitors (recalling the nightmare of RWC1995, let乫s not go there) to a 40 point difference, and even a win for the home team. No idea, sorry. But Japan certainly has improved under Eddie Jones, and the win against Wales in the summer has boosted confidence and support. Let乫s hope it乫s a good game and Japan stays in touch at least.

Kotaro Matsushima of Natal Sharks has been called up to the squad as an extra back-up member. Here is the initial squad announcement for the All Blacks and European tour (32 members and 6 back-up) announced on October 16th.  And the tour schedule (November 3- 25) is here.

October 22. Plenty has happened recently. After Round 6 of the Top League first stage with just one round left, Suntory top Pool A and Yamaha are top of Pool B. Yamaha is the only unbeaten team, though they drew with Panasonic. Suntory lost to NEC early on.

Last night on the Rugby Weekly programme JRFU General Manager Iwabuchi appeared, as he does regularly. He looks very serious and professional these days, of course because his job requires it, though he did manage a genuine smile when Yano-san mentioned Aoyama as being his university and referred to his juniors (乪kohaitachi乫). He made the important point that the All Blacks must no longer be a team which Japanese players are in awe of (乪akogare乫), but one which they must beat (乪taosanakya ikenai乫). There seem to be plans afoot to play the All Blacks every year or two in Japan, and this country is a convenient and pleasant stopping point for the New Zealanders on their way to Europe. But whether that will be possible surely depends on how close and exciting the game is on November 2nd.

Meanwhile Eddie Jones is recovering in hospital, and all good wishes to him.

Last night (September 29) there was an interesting TV programme about Eddie Jones and his 乪Japan Way乫 coaching. He began by consulting with successful Japan coaches in other sports (Hara-san – baseball, Sasaki-san – women乫s soccer, and one other) to try to find out what Japanese sportsmen were good at and not good at. This, if I understood correctly, led to exploiting 乪small spaces乫 in attack, and also he pays attention to attacking alignment so that any one of several players may receive the ball depending on which way the defender乫s shoulder is facing, and burst through a narrow gap (small space).

For defence he employed a Japanese pro wrestler who when he was in the ring frequently brought down men weighing 140kg though he only weighed 105kg. And he made sure that fitness and intensity was maintained throughout long gruelling days of practice, and used overseas data from Australia and South Africa as his yardstick, as well as GPS to record players乫 movements during practice.  I think we can safely say that this Japan team will be as ready as it ever can be when the ABs come calling in November...

The Top League 2013-14 season kicked off at the weekend (August 30 – September 1). The new two stage format seems to be a great success, forcing each team to hit the ground running if they want a chance to be in the upper eight teams for the second stage starting in November. Results (first round): Pool A: Suntory 32 NTT Comms 6; Kobe 28 NEC 26; NTT Docomo 29 Kyuden 7; Toyota Motors 21 Toyota Shuttles 18.  Pool B: Ricoh 27 Coca Cola 27; Yamaha 38 Kubota 28; Kintetsu 0 Panasonic 46; Toshiba 10 Canon 8.

Again Suntory look to be the team to beat. They are just too good in their defence and support play on attack. Their slogan says it all: 乬Still Hungry!乭 after two championships.

Ticket info in Japanese; again this year tickets for Chichibunomiya and Hanazono games can be bought online in English from the JRFU.  The Japan v All Black game on November 2nd at Chichibunomiya is likely to sell out very quickly.

 

Jones pleased with development of team (June 23rd)

Japan 23 Wales 8 (Tokyo, June 15th). Accepting that this was not the full Welsh team it was still a fantastic and historic result. Well Done, Players and Coaches!

Jones says he is lucky to coach Japan

Japan 18 Wales 22 (Osaka, June 8th). It was great to see a full house of about 20,000 at this game played at Hanazono stadium, with as many as 6,000 students from local rugby schools up to universities watching. This was thanks to the wisdom of the Kansai RFU in altering game schedules to allow the younger players to watch and learn from the game. Japan came very close indeed to winning, and if the usually metronomic Goromaru had slotted a couple more penalties the game might have swung in Japan乫s favour. Eddie Jones has said that to reach the IRB world rankings Top Ten level ten Japanese players must play Super Rugby. There are currently three: Tanaka, Horie and Leach (now injured). Tanaka did make a real difference to how Japan played. Let乫s hope there is a full house again next Saturday for the second and final game against the Welsh second string team.

Jones names 35-man squad for PNC.

The squad is here.

Pacific Nations Cup: Japan 17 Tonga 27 (May 25, Kanagawa); Japan 8 Fiji 22 (June 1, Fiji); Japan 16 Canada 13 (June 19, Mizuho); Japan 38 USA 20 (June 23, Tokyo, Chichibu).

Japan will also play reigning Six Nations champions Wales on June 8th (Osaka, Hanazono) and 15th (Tokyo, Chichibu), though many Welsh players will be touring with the Lions in Australia. 

Jones praises effort of team after the loss to Tonga. I suppose you could say the score is what the rankings would suggest when 11th (Tonga) plays 15th (Japan). Tonga won the breakdowns mainly through Latu and T Pole, two very experienced players. Japan乫s rookie Fujita was robbed by T Pole on one occasion for a try as he went into the tackle too high. It is easy to see that Eddie Jones is blooding young wings Fujita and Fukuoka early and giving them plenty of experience for long-term gain, and that may well be the right policy, but in the short term (i.e. beating the team in front of you) it is a risk.

The JRFU announced the schedule for the coming Top League season this week on May 14, 2013. The first game will be on August 30th between Suntory who are aiming for their third consecutive league title, and NTT Communications at Chichibunomiya stadium in Tokyo. This year the number of teams has increased from 14 to 16, and will be divided initially into two pools of 8. Each team will play the other pool members once in a round-robin system. The second stage starting on November 30th will see the pools reshuffled into a higher group and lower group of eight teams each. Again each team will then play all the other members once in a round-robin. At the end the 16th team will be automatically relegated and the 14th and 15th teams will have to win playoffs to stay in the Top League. The top four teams of the higher group will enter a playoff tournament, as in previous years. Schedule and further details (Japanese).

Pool A: Suntory, Kobe, Toyota, NEC, NTT Comms, Kyuden, NTT Docomo, Toyota Shuttles.

Pool B: Toshiba, Panasonic, Yamaha, Kintetsu, Ricoh, Canon, Coca Cola, Kubota.

Jones comments on A5N success

Eddie Jones happy with tough win over Hong Kong – For what it乫s worth this viewer thought the referee Aaron Littlewood had a good international debut: he consulted well with his assistants and blew twice for crooked scrum feeds which is still one of the laws, much neglected by most so-called top international referees... (In a Heineken Cup semi-final last weekend Nigel Owens once instructed a scrum half to 乬get the ball in乭 while the scrum was wheeling! Can乫t refs just explain to both front rows at the start that they want the scrum square and stationary on the mark before the ball is put in?)

Eddie Jones was happy with Japan乫s performance against the Philippines, but also said there was plenty of room for improvement. (April 20, 2013)

Asian 5 Nations: Japan 121 Philippines 0 (April 20, Fukuoka, Level 5); Japan 38 Hong Kong 0 (April 27, Hong Kong); Japan 64 Korea 5 (May 4, Tokyo, Chichibu); Japan 93 UAE 3 (May 10, UAE).

In the May 6th Rugby Weekly programme it was mentioned that Akihito Yamada (wing, aged 27) of Panasonic Wild Knights has not yet earned a Japan cap. Yamada scored the most Top League tries of any player last season (a new record 20 tries in 2012-13). The Laird hopes he will get his chance soon, one way or the other. If not with Japan, maybe with a professional team overseas? He is on a pro contract already. And as he himself said when asked what rugby meant to him, it is about chances, and taking them.

Rugby concussion rule causes alarm (March 31) Brian O乫Driscoll乫s uncle, a respected doctor, resigns over the 5 minute rule (Pitch Side Concussion Assessment or PSCA). In fact he resigned last summer, but the issue is very much a current one as BOD乫s recent concussion shows.

Allan Massie on the scrum (March 30) – He is very clear and sensible, a great writer on rugby and other matters.

BBC Radio 5 discussion on the scrum (March 28). In the Laird乫s view the scrum has declined in recent years because referees don乫t make sure that the ball is put in straight, and because of the emphasis on the hit, which takes place before the ball is even in play! Rugby Union without scrums is unthinkable.  The way to restore the scrum to its former importance and yes, glory is to eliminate the hit altogether. It is dangerous and causes too many collapses. All we want and need is a fair contest for the ball. Hooking has become a lost art, and strikes against the head as rare as hens乫 teeth...

No early shove, the scrum to be square and stationary at the referee乫s mark, and a straight put-in. Problem sorted!

Tokyo Sevens (March 30-31, 2013). Well done, South Africa!

Japan has been training at Global Arena in Fukuoka in preparation for the Asian 5 nations. The squad has been reduced to 35 members.

Eddie Jones named a 41-man Japan squad at the end of February 2013 for a busy summer of ten games. He wants to create a unique Japanese style that others want to imitate, something like the iPhone of world rugby, he says.

 

50th Japan Championships: Feb 2nd: Kobe 20 Toyota 5; Panasonic 56 Yamaha 14; Coca Cola 47 Tsukuba Uni 15; Teikyo Uni 115 Rokko Fighting Bull 5 (Chichibu 2pm); Feb 10: Coca Cola 29 Kobe 45; Panasonic 54 Teikyo 21; Feb 16: Suntory 26 Panasonic 13; Kobe 31 Toshiba 29: Feb 24: Suntory 36 Kobe 20 (Final)

Highlanders v Blues pre-season (featuring Fumiaki Tanaka in the second half)

Top Japanese rugby players are increasingly heading south to play in the Super 15. There are more contacts with the Southern hemisphere, and so it is probably easier to find contracts there than in Europe. Michael Leach (Toshiba) will be with the Waikato Chiefs for six months, Shota Horie (hooker) is with the Melbourne Rebels and Japan scrum half Fumiaki Tanaka is with the Highlanders. This is being hailed in Japan as a result of ten years of the Top League, and certainly it could not have happened without the TL. It will be interesting to see how these players get on and the effect it will have on Japanese rugby longer term. It must be a positive step.

Top League (Second Half)

Play-off Tournament: Suntory Sungoliath 38 Kobelco Steelers 19 (Jan 19, 14.00, Chichibunomiya); Panasonic Wild Knights 8 Toshiba Brave Lupus 20 (Jan 20, 14.00, Chichibunomiya); Final: Suntory 19 Toshiba 3 (Jan 27, 14.00, Chichibunomiya) Great defensive effort by Suntory which survived wave after wave of Toshiba attack. Suntory is now the first ever team to achieve an unbeaten League run and Playoff to become champions!

Meanwhile Coca Cola and Kubota have bounced back up into the TL for next season, replacing Sanix and NTT Docomo. And match-ups for the 50th Japan Championship have been decided.

TL attendance figures indicate 362,068 people watched all the games this 2012-13 season (including play off tournament and promotion matches). The all time record after ten seasons is the 2008-9 season with 384,954 attending. This season乫s figure is second after that.

Top League Round 13 (last round, all games on January 6th): Panasonic 44 Canon 14; Sanix 36 NEC 55; Ricoh 21 Yamaha 46; Kobelco 29 Suntory 43; Toyota 31 NTT Docomo 24; Kyuden 27 NTT Com 28; Toshiba 50 Kintetsu 30

Top League Round 12:  NTT Com 13 Kintetsu 10; NEC 34 Canon 0 (Saturday, December 22nd); Sanix 13 NTT Docomo 42; Toyota 52 Ricoh 7; Yamaha 29 Suntory 35; Kobelco 24 Panasonic 25; Kyuden 5 Toshiba 101 (Sunday, December 23rd) 

Top League Round 11: Kyuden 35 Panasonic 76; NTT Docomo 14 Ricoh 44; Suntory 38 NTT Com 7; Kintetsu 44 Canon 39 (Saturday, December 15th); Sanix 25 Toyota 35; Kobelco 27 Toshiba 29; NEC 35 Yamaha 49 (Sunday, December 16th)

Top League Round 10: Yamaha 28 Kintetsu 35; Suntory 15 Toshiba 14; NEC 29 NTT Com 6 (Saturday, Dec 8th); Kyuden 29 Ricoh 28; Panasonic 65 NTT Docomo 7; Canon 26 Toyota 34; Kobelco 52 Sanix 7 (Sunday, Dec 9th)

Top League Round 9: Suntory 48 NTT Docomo 14; Toshiba 17 Yamaha 14 (Dec 1st); NTT Com 5 Kobe 48; Panasonic 40 Toyota 17; Sanix 10 Canon 23; Kintetsu 19 Ricoh 17; Kyuden 18 NEC 55 (Dec 2nd).

For highlights see the Flash Player video on the Top League page.

High School Rugby – 92nd National Tournament (Dec. 27 – Jan. 7, 2013)

49th University Rugby ChampionshipSemi-finals – January 2nd; Final January 13, 2013

Kitakyushu Genwaku RFC – the Laird乫s club!

The Laird has just bought a book newly published by NHK in November 2012, written by Kensuke Iwabuchi, General Manager of the national team at the JRFU since January 2012. The book is titled Sekai de katanakereba imi ga nai – Nihon Ragubi- sainetsu no shinario (Roughly translatable as 乬If we don乫t win in the world there is no point – Reinjecting passion into Japanese Rugby乭). Of course this is highlighting Japan乫s poor World Cup record so far (just one win, two draws and 21 losses since 1987) and the declared aim of the Union to get Japan into the Best Eight. (This will make interesting reading over the Christmas break! ;-)

In the foreword the author mentions an experience he had at the annual KOBELCO CUP 2009 in Sugadaira which is in the mountains of Honshu and cool in summer, so an ideal and traditional place for summer rugby practice games. (Sugadaira tends to be used by universities, while Top League teams go to Hokkaido in the summer which is also cool.) The Kobelco Cup is played by 17 and 18 year old high school students. Players who were that age in 2009 will be 27 or 28 years old when the RWC comes to Japan in 2019. At the opening ceremony on July 28th as requested Ken Iwabuchi gave a short speech before about 400 elite schoolboy players. He asked for a show of hands for those hoping to play in the World Cup in the future. Only five hands went up out of 400! He concludes that for these students it means much more to play for the famous Waseda or Meiji University than for Japan!! (Clearly there is much work to be done to change things!)

Japan乫s European Tour (November 2012)

Japan XV 41 French Barbarians 65 (15.00, Le Havre, Sunday November 25th) It is an improvement on the scoreline when the teams last met anyway. And the two test matches have been won which makes this a good tour with many lessons learned.

 Japan XV 3 Basque Select 19 (19.00, Biarritz, Wednesday November 21st) Two steps forward, one step back? But as Eddie Jones says there is still time to fix inexperience and other problems before RWC 2015.

Japan 25 Georgia 22 (15.00, Locomotiv Stadium, Treblisi, Saturday November 17th) – A wonderful last-gasp drop goal by Kosei Ono of Suntory (formerly of Sanix and Christchurch Boys High School) sealed this victory after Georgia had squandered their chance to do the same at the other end after 80 minutes was up. Michael Leach乫s hands raised in frustration turned to instant joy as the score was awarded, to the amazement of all. Fantastic stuff!! The fragility and mental frailty still seen even last year seems to be a thing of the past....

Japan 34 Rumania 23 (15.00, National Rugby Stadium, Bucharest, Saturday November 10th) – This is Japan乫s first ever victory over a European team in Europe! It is also Japan乫s first ever test match win in Europe. (Of course Japan beat Zimbabwe in the 1991 World Cup in Belfast, which is Europe, methinks.) Well Done Everyone!

The 19th Golden Oldies 2012 was held in Fukuoka from October 28th to November 4th. Website (Japanese only) is here.

The Laird has enquired at the Golden Oldies office and discovered that it is not a tournament, so there is no final. Games are being played at three venues which are close together: Umi no Naka Michi Koen/Park, Gan no Su Recreation Center and Sawayaka Hiroba (Coca Cola ground). The main venue is Umi no Naka Michi. (Change at JR Kashii for Umi no Naka Michi station). The third and final day of games is Friday, November 2nd. They will be played from 10am to 3pm. (The Laird has taken the day off and is going to watch tomorrow.)

HSBC Asian 5 Nations 2012 (April 27-May 26); Facebook page

IRB World rankings

Download and test yourself on the Laws of the Game, in seven different languages!

 

The IRB also provide Video Live and On Demand for various competitions held under their auspices which is one of the best things on their website.

Total Rugby IRB TV and radio

JRFU.org

Hooray! NHK乫s English service (NHK World) reports on SBW (Sonny Bill Williams), the All Black and champion boxer, and his humble approach to the pinnacle of two sports! (Thank you, NHK and more English reports, please.)

JRFU English website – jrfu.org – includes Japan and Top League game reports

TICKETS AVAILABLE ONLINE

Rich Freeman now works for Kyodo News which is a subscription service, though his reports are sometimes carried in the Mainichi.

That乫s about it乧except for this page and the very detailed RiJ e-mail newsletter (all.4.one[at]hotmail.com).

Top League Round 9: Suntory v NTT Docomo; Toshiba v Yamaha (Dec 1st); NTT Comm v Kobe; Panasonic v Toyota; Sanix v Canon; Kintetsu v Ricoh; Kyuden v NEC (Dec 2nd).

Break until December. The national team is touring Europe in November.  

Top League Round 8: Canon 25 Yamaha 36; Kyuden 19 NTT Docomo 17; Panasonic 23 Kintetsu 20; Toshiba 26 Ricoh 28; Kobelco 48 NEC 14; Sanix 19 Suntory 42; NTT Com 23 Toyota 24 (All games played on October 27th.)

Top League Round 7: NTT Docomo 29 Kobelco 37; NEC 33 Toshiba 48; Yamaha 52 Kyuden 8; NTT Com 30 Sanix 23; Kintetsu 10 Toyota 18; Suntory 34 Panasonic 20 (Oct 20); Canon 17 Ricoh 35 (Oct 21).  

Top League Round 6: Panasonic 35 Yamaha 18; Kobelco 70 Kyuden 24; NTT Docomo 7 Kintetsu 59; Toyota 22 Suntory 25; Ricoh 36 NEC 19 (October 13); Canon 17 NTT Com 31; Sanix 20 Toshiba 29 (October 14)

Top League Round 5: NEC 21 Panasonic 38 (Oct 5); Yamaha 13 Kobelco Steelers 33; Ricoh 50 Sanix 17; Canon 34 Kyuden 5; Toshiba 21 Toyota 29;  NTT Docomo 15 NTT Com 23; Kintetsu 24 Suntory 49 (Oct 6)

Break September 28-30, no games

Top League Round 4: NTT Com 14 Ricoh 9 (Sept 21); Kintetsu 48 Kyuden 11; Suntory 42 Canon 17; Toshiba 32 Panasonic 22; Toyota 23 Kobelco Steelers 23 (Sept 22); Yamaha 53 Sanix 27; NEC 42 NTT Docomo 13 (Sept 23). 

September 17. Top League Results (Round 3): Ricoh 19 Suntory 37; Canon 22 Kobelco Steelers 32; Yamaha 25 NTT Com 19; Toshiba 64 NTT Docomo 12; Panasonic 55 Sanix 15; Kintetsu 17 NEC 21; Toyota 19 Kyuden 15.

September 13th. The Top League Round Three Preview is provided by the JRFU English website. It is rumoured this official website is to be discontinued soon. I really hope not!

September 7th. The Top League Round Two is starting on Friday (tomorrow) with Canon v Toshiba at Chichibunomiya. This year Sonny Bill Williams (SBW) is the highest profile new boy, but he didn乫t play for Panasonic Wild Knights last week. Currently there are 13 Kiwis, 6 South Africans and other nations are represented in the TL in ones and twos.

September 3rd. Top Rugby writer in Japan Rich Freeman has recently changed jobs and is now working for Kyodo News. But it seems his stories are being carried in the Mainichi. Here he is on the first Top League game of the new season.

August 28. At the hospital today I was told I can乫t play rugby for two months while the cracked rib heals. It was clear enough on the X-ray, and I don乫t ignore advice from doctors! So there will be no club summer camp (gasshuku) for me this weekend. Jogging and light training only.

August 26, 2012. Top League starts in Japan next weekend. Can乫t wait! Also the new Rugby Championship is very good. Since the Rugby Championship covers virtually all the Southern hemisphere now with huge distances travelled by teams, why can乫t Japan be included in a Northern hemisphere competition? The Pacific Nations (Fiji, Tonga, Samoa) could be included in an expanded Rugby Championship couldn乫t they – maybe as a combined team?

The Laird has been ridiculously busy of late, with a family bereavement, a rugby injury (cracked rib) and of course his work which has prevented him from touching this page. Anyway, he has found something positive which he乫d like to share with you: the JRFU乫s Asian Scrum outreach program for Asian Rugby. Specifically here is an example of how the JRFU is helping Lao Rugby. And the Laird is presuming that Katie Wurst was sent by the IRB – she obviously has done great 乪missionary乫 work for Rugby Union in Laos. Well Done All!

 

March 21

The Eddie Jones era of Japan Rugby has got off to a great start. Not only has Suntory won the Top League and All-Japan Championships as he planned, but he has announced an exciting new squad with many young players for the upcoming HSBC Asian 5 Nations, with great potential for RWC 2015. Well done especially to young Yoshikazu Fujita. It is great that Eddie is prepared to use 18 year olds and many uncapped players, as they are exciting talents for the future.

February 6, 2012:The Top League league games finished at the weekend with the 13th round. The four play-off teams, four wild card teams and two teams to be automatically relegated are now known.

December 22

It is looking very likely that Eddie Jones will be the next coach of Japan. The JRFU have said publicly this week that they want him from April, and surely Suntory will not stand in the way. If he gets a decent Japanese assistant (and Kunda-san is rumoured to be the man) then things may begin to look up.

November 21

Eddie Jones is interested in both the Japan and England coaching jobs. This is public knowledge. In other words, he wants to coach a team at the next Rugby World Cup. Either post would (presumably) mean quitting his present coaching slot at Suntory... How will Suntory and the JRFU react? John Kirwan is officially the Japan coach till the end of December.

Meanwhile Yamaha have lost two Top League games on the trot. Now only Toshiba and Suntory remain unbeaten. The Kyushu teams are not going too well...

Japan Rugby Top League after two rounds (as at November 9th)

 

Team

P

W

D

L

F

A

Diff

BP1

BP2

Pts

1

Yamaha

2

2

0

0

100

35

65

2

0

10

2

Toshiba

2

2

0

0

70

29

41

2

0

10

3

Suntory

2

2

0

0

77

41

36

1

0

9

4

Kintetsu

2

2

0

0

53

30

23

0

0

8

5

Kobe

2

1

0

1

52

38

14

1

1

6

6

Panasonic

2

1

0

1

64

57

7

1

1

6

7

Toyota

2

1

0

1

60

43

17

1

0

5

8

Ricoh

2

1

0

1

53

71

-18

1

0

5

9

NTT Com

2

1

0

1

45

65

-20

1

0

5

10

NTT Docomo

2

0

1

1

34

65

-31

0

0

2

11

Honda

2

0

1

1

26

64

-38

0

0

2

12

Sanix

2

0

0

2

36

63

-27

1

0

1

13

NEC

2

0

0

2

43

76

-33

1

0

1

14

Coca-Cola

2

0

0

2

30

66

-36

0

0

0

 

Yamaha have started well with two wins. Of course it is early days, but if they can keep their momentum they will make the play-offs (Top Four) which would be very good for them after a poor season last year when they finished 11th. Suntory have many star players, so they should also be in the play-offs together with Panasonic and Toshiba. The two Kyushu teams, Sanix and Coca-Cola, are struggling at this stage. The top point scorers are below:

 

Name

Team

T

G

PG

DG

Pts

 

Ayumu Goromaru

Yamaha

1

11

6

-

45

 

Yasumasa Shigemitsu

Kintetsu

-

3

8

-

30

 

Peter Hewat

Suntory

-

6

5

-

27

 

Yoshimitsu Kawano

Ricoh

2

6

1

-

25

 

David Hill

Toshiba

1

7

2

-

25

 

Shuetsu Narita

Suntory

4

-

-

-

20

 

Orene Ai乫i

Toyota

2

5

-

-

20

 

Atsushi Tanabe

Sanyo

-

2

4

-

16

 

Masakazu Shima

Honda

-

2

4

-

16

 

Peter Grant

Kobe

1

5

-

-

15

 

Shaun Webb

Coca-Cola

-

2

3

-

13

 

October 24

Eddie Jones says he is ready and willing to take over as national coach but he has heard nothing from the JRFU yet. He takes a less radical approach to reform than others, suggesting that Japan run a junior test side in the Asian Five Nations and a mentoring system, especially for positions 9, 10 and 15. He also thinks the top 30-40 students should receive intensive fitness and skills programs, and attend regular camps. These are interesting ideas. Certainly Japan乫s full national team is too strong for the Asian Five Nations at present. He is also dead right that the national team desperately needs real success so that the profile of the game in Japan can be raised back to the level it once was, and beyond. To do this Japan needs a more challenging fixture list. Amen to that! Jones also names four players good enough to play overseas: Hiwasa, Tanaka, Leitch and Horie.

Well done France for stretching the All Blacks to the limit in the final and Congratulations to the latter for winning RWC 2011. Thanks and praise are also due to the whole country of New Zealand for staging a marvellous Rugby World Cup.

Here乫s an interesting tidbit about one Gareth Holgate currently playing at Kyuden Voltex and in the Philippines.

October 21

Can the Welsh beat Australia today? We乫ll know soon. Both teams seem well motivated for the clash, despite recent disappointments. Meanwhile Keith Davies tells Rich Freeman what he thinks is wrong with Japanese rugby. Is university rugby in Japan 乬a complete waste of time乭? Maybe academies would be a good idea, but who is going to invest the money in them? Presumably it will have to come from the companies who own the Top League teams now. As for Meiji University, they are very proud of their forwards. Is that a 乬poor tradition乭? The Laird rather likes seeing the big forwards rumble up to the line, although 20 minutes nonstop of it may seem a bit too much of a good thing. It乫s the sort of thing Ingerlund used to do in their heyday before the flash harries in the backs took over. Grunt and grind...do it to me one more time etc. Foreign development officers in the universities might be feasible...

October 18

It has taken a while to get over the disappointment of Japan乫s World Cup, but I am back now. JK was very sensible to resign, there was no mileage in attempting to stay under the circumstances and as he rightly judged it was better to go than be pushed. He has had success with Japan and good times, just not quite enough. Thanks for the good memories and Good Luck anyway.

Meanwhile the Welsh were unlucky to fall foul of Alain Rolland. One somehow doubts that Steve Walsh (for example) would have given more than a yellow card for Sam Warburton乫s indiscretion. It is all discussed in some detail by the experts here.

So, can the French bestir themselves and create the biggest upset of all time? They have sleepwalked for much of the tournament and yet still got to the final. It would be nice if they could get their act together at last, and the Laird always backs the underdog on principle...Allez les Bleus! ;-)

September 7

Rich Freeman highlights the fact that many teams now have players not born in their country, Anyway, Japan is abiding by the IRB rules. (People who think otherwise need to go and have a lie down!) Meanwhile Japan is warming up nicely for France.

RUGBY WORLD CUP 2011

Match Schedule (pdf) Match schedule by date, pool and venue (pdf, 3 pages)

August 18

Unusual to see the Japan Rugby team getting a two minute spot on BBC World sports news by Sean Fletcher this morning. Probably the tsunami helped get the extra attention, but anyway JK spoke much as he usually does, and Japan training at Chichibunomiya was shown also. (The Laird will be away and not able to update this page at all from now until about September 5th at the earliest.)

August 16

Italian test gives Japan plenty to think about. (Daily Yomiuri) Well yes, I suppose you always learn more from losses than wins if you analyze your deficiencies accurately, as John Kirwan usually does. Such is life! Hopefully the Italians won乫t reflect too deeply on any of their deficiencies, though I guess Nick Mallett is too good a coach not to. (They play Scotland next!)  It is also hoped that Japan will have too much firepower for the USA next Sunday evening in Tokyo... (The Canadians will no doubt be watching with interest after they won both their warm-ups with the USA and share Pool A with Japan...Actually everyone is watching each other now!)

August 14

Japan played well yesterday against Italy and gave their hosts plenty to think about, but eventually lost 31-24, a converted try乫s worth. Italy was very strong in mauls from line-outs near Japan乫s line, but Japan also produced one good maul near the Italian line which could only be stopped by conceding a penalty try. Half time saw Japan leading 17-14 in fact, after going 14-0 down and spurning an easy penalty to open their account. A tactic which worked well for Japan on what appeared to be a narrow pitch with very small in goal areas at Cesena stadium (a football ground capacity c. 23,000) was short grubbers and chip kicks. Japan乫s first try came from that, though the grounding by wing Takehisa Usuzuki (Toshiba and Doshisha) was only just enough...

August 13

JK says his players are itching to go to the RWC as they face Italy today, then return to Japan for the final warm-up game against the USA at Chichibunomiya (Tokyo) on August 21st. The mood in the camp seems cheerful, as well it might be after a good PNC and training in Italy. Good Luck Japan, ganbatte kudasai!!

August 12

Yamanaka slapped with 2 year ban – and all to grow a moustache for heaven乫s sake – ouch! Meanwhile Shaun Webb is a safe bet at No.15 for Japan v Italy. The game will kick off at 27.35 tomorrow, i.e. 3.35 am on Sunday in Japan, Live on J Sports for the matchsticks in pupils brigade... The Japan team is given here.

August 9

George Smith joins Suntory: detailed report. It was news to the Laird that George Gregan had ever lost his love for rugby, but that happens to the best players if they play too much, and also it is good to know that – according to Eddie Jones – he regained it at Suntory. (Though to be frank the Laird never felt that GG was quite the really great player he had been in the past when he was playing in Japan...)

August 7

So the ABs defended Eden Park successfully from the Aussies, England narrowly beat Wales and Scotland squeezed past Ireland yesterday. Japanese rugby will be pleased to welcome James Haskell after he scored a decent no 8 try from a scrum going forward near the line. Good also that Eddie Butler gave a name check to his new club Ricoh Black Rams!

July 26

Two big name signings for Suntory... George Smith and Danie Rossouw. This reflects the pulling power of coach Eddie Jones, and maybe also increased interest in Japan as the 2019 World Cup draws nearer... What with young James Haskell joining Ricoh Black Rams the place is getting quite full, and an exciting Top League season is in prospect!

July 23

Japan continues the World Cup build-up in Italy. Now Japan is 12th in the IRB world rankings for the first time ever! And Rich Freeman of the Daily Yomiuri speaks to the recently appointed JRFU Chairman.

July 14

Japan are PNC champions for the first time! Congratulations on withstanding a very strong first half onslaught from Fiji. As for the cards, maybe one or two in the world record issued by Mr. Fitzgibbon were a bit harsh, but big men have to make the extra effort to tackle safely (i.e. lower) on small men, or take the consequences! Murray Williams of Toyota Shuttles (Toyota Jidou Shokki) looked especially good at no 10 where he started for the first time (an extra option for JK) and he also performed a memorable try-saving tackle on a man about twice his size... In the end Japan win the PNC by virtue of beating the other 10-point team Tonga narrowly last Saturday.

Note that if the cup winners had been decided on points difference it would have gone to the Tongan Sea Eagles (Ikale Tahi) and not the Brave Blossoms... See the standings. Japan finished with -13, Tonga with +33! This will certainly make the RWC pool game between Japan and Tonga a humdinger!

Anyway, take nothing away from the Brave Blossoms who were worthy champions for the first time since they started playing the Pacific Nations in (I believe) 1999... It is also 17 years since Japan last beat Fiji.

July 10

Important win for Japan over Tonga yesterday, 28-27. After dropping from 13th to 15th in the IRB world rankings as a result of last week乫s loss to Samoa, it was vital for morale to get straight back on the horse. Arlidge was back at fly half and Webb at full back. Now the PNC is wide open!

July 3

A bit of a disappointing start to the PNC for Japan: it seemed, as JK said after the game, that Japan started too slowly and the man-on-man tackles were not made. They took a while to adjust to the physicality of the Samoans who were really up for the game. By the time they did so (and the second half was much better) the game was out of sight. Clearly the Asian Five Nations was not sufficient preparation for this higher level tournament. Hopefully the rude awakening will bring the best out of the team later. Thanks are due anyway to Manu Samoa for being the only team willing to play in Japan as originally scheduled before the events of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. (Also well done to Tonga for a convincing away win at Churchill Park in Fiji!)

ANZ Pacific Nations Cup

Round One: Sat 2 July: Tonga 45 Fiji 21; Japan 15 Samoa 34; Round Two: Sat 9 July: Fiji 36 Samoa 18; Tonga 27 Japan 28 ;  Round Three: Weds 13 July: Samoa 19 Tonga 29; Japan 21 Fiji 13

 

June 17

The Laird doesn乫t like to moan (bad form, you know!) but he was disappointed that his recording of the Bulls v Stormers last Sunday was almost unwatchable because heavy rain here in Kyushu interfered with the CS reception. Boo... boo... It seems High Definition broadcasts are especially vulnerable to bad weather as they push out so much data. The Laird would swap for a lower grade but more reliable picture. 

June 14

John Kirwan announces squad for Pacific Nations Cup including flanker Tadasuke Nishihara and fly half Murray Williams after Ryohei Yamanaka became... er... unavailable.

HSBC Asian Five Nations (Official page ; news)

Round One: Sat 23 April: Sri Lanka 13 UAE 13 (Sri Lanka); Kazakhstan 10 Hong Kong 23 (Kazakhstan); Round Two: Fri 29 April: UAE 23 Kazakhstan 10 (UAE); Sat 30 April: Hong Kong 22 Japan 45 (Hong Kong); Round Three: Sat 7 May: Kazakhstan 0 Japan 61 (Bangkok); Sri Lanka 3 Hong Kong 48 (Sri Lanka); Round Four: Fri 13 May: UAE 0 Japan 111 (Dubai); Kazakhstan 34 Sri Lanka 18 (Kazakhstan); Round Five: Sat 21 May: Japan 90 Sri Lanka 13 (Tokyo Colombo, Sri Lanka); Hong Kong 62 UAE 3 (Hong Kong) Final table

May 21

A pleasant enough romp in the sun for Japan to finish the A5N as champions in Colombo. Well done to the home team for an early intercept try (converted), a drop goal and a penalty, which makes a full flush doesn乫t it? Lots of good drumming and background music throughout the match added local colour... next stop the PNC for Japan!

May 14

Japan scored 57 points in the first half and 54 in the second against the amateurs of UAE yesterday... Presumably JK will be unhappy at the reduced scoring rate in the second half!! ;-)  (He乫s a hard man to please, we know...) It was good to see James Arlidge back and playing with authority at 10 and Sean Webb played much better when he came on at centre than he has done recently at fly half... Ryan Nicholas was very good indeed except for a couple of elementary errors which he would never normally make... fatigue? Good debut cap appearance for the Japanese winger Takehisa Usuzuki with four tries, and No. 7 Michael Leitch was Frank Hadden乫s Man of the Match. Anyway well done to the team for scoring 111, (one one one) and so far three games have been won won won!! ;-)

Oh dear, did Mr. Mori actually say that Japan would host RWC 2019 on its own or was he misreported? I hope the latter, but he does sometimes put his foot in things with strange statements. Anyway, the venues haven乫t been decided yet (and indeed the Kitakyushu stadium hasn乫t been started yet and won乫t be complete till 2015 earliest! ;-)... and why not include one or two in other Asian countries?

May 11

Rich Freeman writes that Asia has plenty to offer rugby. The Laird agrees 100% with this. The old racial stereotyping which said that Asians are too small to play rugby was a convenient myth and is no longer true (if indeed it ever was...?).

Meanwhile it is nice and reassuring that the IRB乫s commitment to holding the RWC 2019 in Japan is unwavering...!! But the Laird feels that the talk of messages of solidarity and support by RWCL Chairman and IRB President Bernard Lapasset at the end of this article is merely lip service... Real solidarity and support would have been the IRB honouring the commitment to have the whole PNC (and the upcoming Sri Lankan game in the A5N tournament) played in Japan as originally scheduled!!

May 8

John Kirwan writes in the Daily Yomiuri today about how the oval ball offers hope.Meanwhile Japan  held Kazakhstan to nil in Bangkok yesterday. Of course JK wanted more tries as usual, but he couldn乫t want less points for the opposition!! ;-) But there could be no better man to be HSBC Asian ambassador for Rugby: on a recent IRB Rugby programme he explained that he is targeting two wins for Japan in the RWC 2011 not only because it will guarantee Japan a place in RWC 2015, but also because that will open up another place for an Asian country to qualify for that tournament. (A far-sighted and generous man!)

May 6

The Sanix World Rugby Youth Invitational Tournament (what a mouthful!) is over. It was great again this year!! The final order is here, with details here (pdf). My photos are here (May 4th) and here (May 5th, Finals day). Also my videos from the final day are here: Try by Paarl Boys乫 High School (3rd-4th place playoff) ;  Hamilton v Ivybridge (Final); Haka and Pipe band (After the final)

The Brave Blossoms were not happy after the Hong Kong game. Indeed things must improve against Kazakhstan tomorrow with a new captain.

April 30

The Laird had a very good time at the Sanix World Rugby Youth tournament in Munakata, Fukuoka prefecture yesterday. He met old friends and made new ones. Here is his Facebook photo album of the day. Meanwhile the Japan Rugby community has made a website appealing for Solidarity with Tohoku. And the Japan Rugby Team has made a video of support for Tohoku. (That乫s more like it!! Are you reading this Monsieur Lapasset??)

The Japan team is saying 乬Ganbarou Tohoku!乭 (乬Let乫s fight together, Tohoku!乭)...This is the most meaningful rugby slogan to be devised in Japan since ULTIMATE CRUSH, in the Laird乫s opinion...The game against Hong Kong later today should be a cracker!! ;-)

 

April 27

IRB pulls 5 PNC matches from Japan  Oh Well Done, chaps!! Let乫s hope there are no tsunamis or typhoons in Fiji in early July this year, eh? Nor any tsunamis or terrorist attacks in Colombo (Sri Lanka) on or around May 21st... (The world is a pretty dangerous place folks, once a few years back the Laird had to cancel a trip from Japan to Sri Lanka because Tamil Eelam terrorists were targeting airlines...)... Presumably Monsieur Bernard Lapasset the IRB chairman being French is especially sensitive to radiation... almost all the Froggies (some 6,000 people) cleared out of Tokyo on advice and with assistance from their government after the March 11th nuclear disaster... But the ironic thing is that Kyushu and Kansai (i.e. Southwest Japan) are probably safer than either Fiji or Sri Lanka...  Anyway, it is great that the Sanix World Rugby Youth tournament is going ahead this year here in Kyushu, though with only four overseas teams this time (from NZ, SA, England and Korea) rather than the usual eight. France usually is represented, but I guess all of Japan is too dangerous for them this year... 12 Japanese teams will also play, four more than usual. The tournament starts on April 28th (tomorrow) and ends on May 5th. See here for the outline and format (pdfs).

April 26

Aren乫t the Highlanders going well under Jamie Joseph?! ;-)

April 21

Blues beef up with All Black lock Thorn ; A5N set to kick off with two new teams

April 18

Three uncapped players make Japan squad for A5N(Daily Yomiuri, April 17) Good Luck to them!

But what will happen about the venues for the Pacific Nations games scheduled for Japan above? The Laird feels that they should certainly be played somewhere in Japan, otherwise when will Japan Rugby fans see their team play before the RWC?? It is an ideal opportunity in fact to bring the Japan team to Kyushu and Kansai... and even Hokkaido or Okinawa...why not? These are all safe at the moment. No need to move any games to Fiji, anyway!!

April 15

The Laird wonders if an alternative venue in Western Japan (Kansai or Kyushu) was considered for the game against Sri Lanka. Fukuoka is about 1,000 km from Fukushima...see the map below:

Fukuoka_Fukushima

April 14

Japan forced into long A5N road trip (Rich Freeman, Daily Yomiuri). What a piece of nonsense, sorry 乬shame乭, that Sri Lanka has refused to travel to Tokyo!! No wonder their union has recently been downgraded by the IRB...!! (Not to put too fine a point on it, the Laird hopes that Japan hammers these impudent and unfriendly people at home with a world record score...just as they did to Taiwan some years ago. ;-) Anyway a month on the road will be good for the Japan team bonding!!

April 8

All four Heineken Cup quarter-finals will be Live on J Sports this weekend. Great!! Perpignan v Toulon; Leinster v Leicester; Northampton v Ulster; Biarritz v Toulouse... Plus Brumbies v 乪Canes live... can乫t ask for much more, eh?

April 4

Congratulations to the Japan Sevens squad for winning the Shield at the Adelaide Sevens, beating Tonga 22-5 in the final yesterday. 

 

Name

Club

Age

Hgt.

Wgt.

1

Siliva AHIO

Sanix

24

176

94

2

Takayuki YAMAUCHI (c)

Toyota Verblitz

24

180

85

3

Rotoahea POHIVA

Saitama IoT

22

192

113

4

Lepuha LATUILA

Kintetsu Liners

26

187

103

5

Takaaki NAKAZURU

Waseda Uni.

20

177

76

6

Shuetsu NARITA

Suntory Sungoliath

26

169

68

7

Kanzo NAKAHAMA

Waseda Uni.

22

176

85

8

Sione TEAUPA

Daito Bunka Uni.

23

186

100

9

Tomohiro SHOKAI

Doshisha Uni.

21

186

88

10

Katsuyuki SAKAI

Waseda Uni.

22

172

88

11

Lote TUQIRI

Hakuo Uni.

23

178

88

12

Kensuke IWABUCHI

JRFU

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Japan Sevens Staff: Wataru Murata (head coach, Yamaha); Kensuke Iwabuchi (team manager, JRFU); Shinichi Minamikawa (physiotherapist); Hirohisa Shimono (strength and conditioning coach); Yu Iwai (technical)

Other news: Tokyo likely to host Sevens World Series;Anesi to join Shining Arcs

March 30

Scotland lock Macleod confirms move to Kobe Steelers; Top League charity match to help in relief;

March 28

Seems likelosingnarrowlytoJapanSchoolslastSundaywasareallygoodwake-upcallforScotlandUnder 18s who yesterday defeated England U-18s 26-21. Well Done, Boys!! ; Japan reaches bowl final

March 27

Scott MacLeod is off to Japan (Scotsman.com)

He is the first Scot who is not a kilted Kiwi to play in Japan... but in which team??

March 25

Withdrawals forced on 7s squad

March 21

Japan High Schools march on! After enjoying the atmosphere of the Scotland Six Nations win over Italy at Murrayfield on Saturday, yesterday they won 20-13 over Scotland Under 18 at Braidholm. The match report is here.

March 18

In these difficult times for Japan the Laird is pleased to report a 22-5 victory by Japan Schools over a Glasgow Hawks development side. They play Scotland U-18 at Braidholm, the home of GHA Rugby Club on Sunday, KO at 2 pm Scottish Time... ;-) They are on tour from March 14th to 29th and will play games in Scotland and Wales. The official tour blog on the JRFU website (in Japanese but with photos) is here.

March 10

The IRB has suspended Sri Lanka from full IRB membership status. Not good news! The Laird hopes the Sri Lankan RFU can sort itself out very soon...

Meanwhile, if HIH Prince Tomohito of Mikasa is not well, as appears to be the case, why not ask HIH Princess Takamado if she would be the JRFU乫s patron? She乫s clearly a very busy person(!) but was educated at a very good English university, two of whose alumni introduced Rugby to Keio University in 1899, and she seems to like being the Patron of various sports... (The Laird has met her a few times at the Asiatic Society of Japan and thinks she would do an excellent job, if she were willing and able!)

SCRUM DOWN:  'One for all, all for one' spirit shown (March 9, 2011)

 

March 3

Kirwan names 41 to Japan squad ; Sanyo乫s Brown to join up with Highlanders (Daily Yomiuri); Kirwan names 41-man squad (jrfu.org)

February 28

Marvelous rugby yesterday at the AJC Final.Congratulations to Suntory and George Gregan (playing his last ever pro game) for beating Sanyo 37-20.

 

February 25

The JRFU has decided that a collection will be taken for Christchurch Earthquake relief efforts at the All Japan Championship (AJC) final between Sanyo Wild Knights and Suntory Sungoliath on Sunday, February 27th which kicks off at 2 pm at Prince Chichibu stadium, Tokyo. There will be a minute乫s silence before the game, and Japan coach John Kirwan will address the spectators at half time. The JRFU will also present a cheque to the New Zealand ambassador, Mr. Ian Kennedy. This decision is a recognition of how close New Zealand and Japan have become through Rugby, and is made in the full knowledge on the Japanese side of how terrible the power of earthquakes can be. As JRFU Chairman Mr. Mashimo says: 乬While it appears there may be several Japanese people among the victims, our hearts go out to all involved and they are very much in our thoughts.乭

Comment: The Laird heartily applauds this decision by the JRFU. It is a very generous and appropriate gesture, and shows how the JRFU has become much more professional and better managed in recent years. (It乫s a small world, after all!! ;-)

February 23

Terrible news from Christchurch, NZ. The Laird乫s cousins at West Melton are fine, so are Adam Parker, Matt Mustchin and their families. Japan knows all about earthquakes, will the government send support as it should? Maybe the AMI stadium will be unusable for the RWC? Not certain yet.

Paterson set for a last hurrah for Scotland (Go, Laddie! ;-)

February 21

One of the key Japanese words which explain their culture is 乪gaman乫 (patience 変枬). It indicates the high value placed in this culture on endurance of hardship. This word is quite often heard in rugby commentaries. Another key word is 乪meiwaku乫 (trouble or nuisance丂柪榝). Everyone should make efforts not to cause a meiwaku to others. Well, I乫m afraid Loamanu did cause quite a bit of meiwaku when he was here. (Ask Mr. Segawa, now restored as coach of Toshiba Brave Lupus, who was made to carry the can and do other work in the company for a year!!)  The Laird wonders what Japanese rugby writers such as Koichi Murakami, Dai 乪I乫m not Welsh!乫 Fujishima, Shinrokuro Kobayashi, Kenji Saitoh  and Manabu Matsuse make of this. Or the JRFU High Performance Manager Ken Iwabuchi? Or the new Yamaha coach Katsuyuki Kiyomiya? Or Toshiba forwards coach Nick Holten? There are no doubt people who feel that the punishment of a lifetime ban doesn乫t fit the crime. This is to impose Western standards and thinking on the Japanese context. (Does anybody – even a distinguished former All Black - have a right to do this?)

On the other hand there is another key word which may apply in this case: 乪hansei乫 (soul-searching, reflection, reconsideration丂斀徣). How much remorse has the perpetrator shown? Does he/she sincerely regret his/her actions? That may be what in English is called the saving grace (or exit strategy) in this situation. In other words, if the people who matter can be convinced that the wrongdoer is truly sorry for the meiwaku caused, there is (maybe) a chance that they may reduce the punishment – a Japanese style redemption! That is the Laird乫s reading of the situation anyway...

February 20

Reports on the AJC semi-finals are provided by the JRFU and Daily Yomiuri. Great second half comeback by Sanyo to beat Toshiba, and a very close game at Hanazono between Kobe Steelers and Suntory Sungoliath. (Why did the Steelers no. 14 kick the ball away at the end?? That finished their chances.) Dave Walder is to play for Mitsubishi DynaBoars in Top East, says the DY.

Regarding Loamanu乫s possible return, the Laird is lukewarm at best. Japan has been pretty successful so far (more successful than many Western countries!) in keeping drug abuse to the minimum in this country, and a low-to-zero tolerance of it may be one reason for this. It is a most unlikely scenario(!), but if the Laird were to be caught smoking 乪wacky baccy乫 just once he would very probably lose his job and visa and be kicked out of the country without the chance of return – so why should Mr. Loamanu get special treatment? And if he does come back how will the Japanese fans take to him? Would he be tailed or marked by the police or immigration office? Is this really worth the risk? Is Loamanu such a great player, and Japan so weak, that Japan can乫t win games without him? (The Laird really hopes not!!) No, he乫s apparently getting on fine in France, leave him where he is I say. (Toulon is hardly Botany Bay is it? ;-) I suppose JK and others will argue that he is getting lots of top level rugby experience in France. Well, good for him and the Laird hopes he has a splendid pro rugby career from now on.

On happier matters: Super 15 has started this weekend and there have already been some great games, four of which have been shown on J Sports. And isn乫t it nice to see Nikki Walker back to great form for his Welsh(!) club? (But I would still drop him from the Scotland team after his last performance and put Simon Danielli in instead!!)

February 14

Happy Valentine乫s Day, everyone! Yesterday the Laird watched Ireland v France, oh dear that will make Ireland very hungry for a win against Scotland!! He also saw NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes v Kobe Steelers and Teikyo University v Toshiba Brave Lupus, and tweeted a commentary for both All Japan Championships (AJC) games at 乬rucknmaul乭. Matt Mustchin the former Scotland and Edinburgh lock has played his last game for NTT Docomo (coached by Andrew McCormick) and will now head back to Christchurch. (Otsukaresama deshita! ;-) The Laird also watched England v Italy and admits between gritted teeth to watching Scotland v Wales also live until 4am (nine hours time difference). NTT Communications Shining Arcs and Yamaha Jubilo will be staying in the Top League next season.

February 11

Enough is Enough says JK with regard to Christian Loamanu乫s punishment. (Luckily he is not prepared to make this a resigning issue and apparently will accept the JRFU乫s decision!) The Laird has a degree of sympathy with JK乫s view, based as it appears to be on the Western or Christian (no pun intended!) doctrines of redemption and forgiveness. However, as stated yesterday, if recalling Loamanu denies other people a chance is that fair on them? And how good is Loamanu anyway (i.e. is he really a gamebreaker?) and is he himself really keen to play for Japan again? Etc etc. Too many questions are posed really. And let乫s not forget this is a Japanese team at the end of the day, and the foreign passport holders are really only in the team to shore it up. (Though at least one foreigner has become a Japanese national – Kintetsu乫s Luke Thompson.)

A similar question was posed recently by John Beattie in his blog about the possibility of including Dean Richards in the Lions management for the next tour. (Again the Laird found himself asking – is there really nobody else who could do the same job as well or better?)

February 10

Today乫s DY (Daily Yomiuri) reports that JK wants Christian Loamanu (now 24) back in his Japan team. (Is that really such a good idea, JK? While he may/may not be a reformed character, surely there are other guys who deserve the chance to represent Japan? After all, he乫s now living and playing in France which suggests he has put Japan behind him...)

February 9

In what is undoubtedly his best piece yet for the Daily Yomiuri (good job, Rich! ;-) Rich Freeman, quoting Australian referee Ian McDonnell (who has a rather Scottish-sounding name ;-) argues that the Top League Final should be the end and climax of the season and that the AJC simply confuses matters. The Laird agrees wholeheartedly with this, and the idea that the TL should be on a home-and-away basis. It is really important that muddled thinking and harmful so-called 乪traditions乫 are swept away before the run-up to RWC 2019 begins in earnest. (Oh JRFU, in Thy mercy, hear our prayer! And maybe one or two of the Japanese rugby journalists who read this page might consider starting to talk or write in Japanese about this important issue also?!? Probably the key decision-makers at the JRFU would prefer to read the arguments in Japanese than English. ;-)

Meanwhile Scotland乫s Captain Al Kellock has given an excellent interview to BBC Scotland ahead of the Scotland v Wales encounter this weekend. (The Laird likes the cut of this man乫s jib!! ;-)

 

February 7

Round One of the All-Japan Championships happened yesterday. The Laird did twitter commentary (a twittery?) on two games: Waseda University v NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes and NEC Green Rockets v Toshiba Brave Lupus. My twitter name is 乬rucknmaul乭 by the way.

If wikipedia is right, Prince Tomohito has not been well for a number of years, which would explain his absence from rugby games. Maybe it is time for the JRFU to find a new patron from the imperial family?

February 4

Today is a special day – the Chinese New Year, and risshun, the start of spring in Japan. But for rugby men there is only one show in town: the RBS Six Nations!! John Beattie乫s podcast is here. It will all be shown live (at ungodly hours mostly!) in Japan by J Sports – see the schedule above.

And here乫s a weebit song from the man no lesser person than Winston Churchill called 乬Scotland乫s greatest ever ambassador乭 to encourage the Scottish team: The Laddies Who Fought and Won !!  May the flags wave free and joyfully at Murrayfield this year. Amen.

February 3

Oops, the Laird has made a bloomer! The JRFU does (apparently) have an Honorary President who is Prince Tomohito of Mikasa!! I do beg your pardon, Sir! It乫s just that I haven乫t seen you on the TV too often at games...I did see you once, come to think of it, but don乫t remember when that was.

 

Open letter to Japan coach Mr. John Kirwan, ONZM, MBE:

Dear JK (if I may),

May I first say how much I appreciate and admire your work with the Japan team? I have seen quite a few coaches come and go since I arrived in Japan in April 1988 and I can say that you are most probably the pick of the bunch, though as yet you have not achieved a win at the Rugby World Cup, so I suppose that puts the late Hiroaki Shukuzawa still slightly ahead of you at this stage. Good Luck anyway for this year乫s World Cup in your homeland, New Zealand!

What I wanted to ask you was this: do you think there is anything that can and should be done about the singing of the Japanese national anthem (Kimi Ga Yo) before international games? It is a beautiful and haunting melody, but on its own it will not motivate the players to do their best for their country, will it? On the other hand, since it is a song addressed to the Emperor/Empress expressing hope for the longevity of the imperial family乫s reign  (a kind of 乬Lang may yer lum reek!乭 as we Scots would say ;-) don乫t you think the regular presence of a member of the Japanese imperial family – at least for home games – would help give meaning to the song? It is my view that a member of the imperial family should be patron of the JRFU and that this would help the team focus before games.

Naturally you don乫t have to reply to this directly and you are no doubt a very busy man, but if you agree with my idea please tell your bosses at the JRFU.

Yours in Rugby,

Ian Ruxton (乬The Laird of Kitakyushu乭)

 

February 2

Does the JRFU have a patron? Many unions worldwide do, for example the Scottish Rugby Union乫s patron is HRH Princess Anne (The Princess Royal) who has served in that role graciously, faithfully and loyally (through thick and thin, one might say! ;-) for many years, and indeed her daughter Zara Phillips recently – last December –  became engaged to rugby player Mike Tindall, the current England captain no less! (They live in the Laird乫s hometown in the UK.) Anyway, the Laird believes that the JRFU should have a patron also, and apparently it does not at present – or at least not a very visible one. As RWC 2019 approaches this will be increasingly important, and the Japanese themselves as a people are sticklers for ceremony!

So, in view of the fact that Prince Chichibu (after whom Chichibunomiya rugby ground in Tokyo was named because he loved rugby, and whose statue is at the ground) was a member of the Imperial family of Japan, is there anybody from that family who would be suitable and might be willing to take on that role? The Laird believes there may indeed be such a person, but as the JRFU so far is showing no interest in the matter it is all rather up in the air at the moment...!! (Is anyone going to catch this high punt from the Laird?? ;-)

2010

August 4 Thoughtful article by Peter Bills in yesterday乫s Independent about the possible root cause of current Aussie woes. Meanwhile Peter de Villiers is in hot water again, nothing new there. And the Japanese TL clubs are in Hokkaido, the coolest part of Japan, on summer camps preparing for the new season.

July 5 JK says there are always lessons to be learned. He乫s right of course, especially about over-preparation for World Cups.

June 24 All the hard work, especially on contact play, is beginning to bear impressive fruit for JK and his team. They are now 12th in the IRB rankings after that excellent win over Samoa in Apia last weekend. This puts them within striking distance of the top ten, and if they carry on as they are doing they may make it sooner rather than later. Good Luck! (And by the way Scotland have gone up to seventh, so it乫s been a good weekend for the Laird all round! ;-)

April 14 A Heineken Cup for the Pacific Rim? Great idea! And the Laird agrees with JK that Japan doesn乫t need or want a team in Super rugby. Jones sees Hewat as future coach.

April 3JK says Horses for courses is the order of the day. He says his selection policy changes according to current interpretation of the laws. Complex stuff!

April 1st More than trophy at stake in Asian 5 Nations (Daily Yomiuri) Korea will play Japan – effectively for 乪top dog乫 status – on May 1st! Japan is aiming again to be Asian representative in the Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand.

March 17  Always look on the bright side of life – The credit for Japan乫s rise in the IRB rankings to 13th is not simply down to improvements in the standard of the Top League, but also due to the enlightened  coaching and selection policies of the Japan coach John Kirwan and his assistants. (In fact the Laird feels it is more thanks to JK & Co. than the Top League, though they have clearly both been factors, and they can feed off each other.) 

March 16  Ellison signs with Ricoh ; and a 19-year old first year student of Saga University rugby club has died of alcoholic poisoning after excessive drinking at a club farewell party for graduating students. The infamous practice of ikkinomi (乪drinking all in one go乫) is to blame for this tragic and unnecessary loss.

March 6 In his latest article in the Yomiuri John Kirwan argues that the universities need to play 乬at least ten hard games a season.乭 In an ideal world this would be great for Japanese rugby, and a national league might even help universities in Kyushu, but speaking as an educator the Laird is against this on practical grounds. As the recent case of Ai Fukuhara (Ai-chan) the top table tennis star who has had to leave Waseda University before graduating clearly shows, it really isn乫t possible to operate at the top of a sport and do a full-time course of study at the same time, not even a sports science course. The only way to make real progress is for the young high school graduates to become full-time professional rugby players as many do in the strongest rugby countries (e.g. Australia), but for that to happen the whole system needs to change. In other words the Top League teams have to be removed from their companies and become fully professional entities with academies and a strong local fan base... (That乫s a whole new can of worms, but until it happens Japan will remain a semi-pro and underperforming rugby country!! ;-)

March 2  Kirwan: No holding back in Asian Five Nations (An excellent training programme like the one described as upcoming – including contact fitness and decision-making under pressure – is exactly what a lot of other teams need also! ;-)

March 1, 2010  Kirwan names expanded squad for HSBC Asian Five Nations (JRFU official English page)

The 2010 HSBC Asian 5 Nations doubles as the final Asian qualification round for the 2011 RWC in New Zealand.

Japan乫s Schedule

*Saturday, 01 May 2010, Kick-off 14:00, Korea v Japan, Gyeongsang Stadium, Daegu. (AWAY)

*Saturday, 08 May 2010, Kick-off 14:00, Japan v Arabian Gulf, Prince Chichibu, Tokyo. (HOME)

*Saturday, 15 May 2010, Kick-off 16:00, Japan v Kazakhstan, Prince Chichibu, Tokyo. (HOME)

*Saturday, 22 May 2010, Kick-off 14:00, Japan v Hong Kong, Prince Chichibu, Tokyo. (HOME)

Sanix World Rugby Youth Tournament 2010

This year there will be eight teams from overseas and eight from within Japan.

The British School from Uruguay is the first ever participant from South America.

Tournaments

(Games in red are live on J Sports...)

47th National Championship (Nihon Senshuken) Preview Round 1: February 7 (Sun) (1)  Suntory Sungoliath 10 NEC Green Rockets 10 (14.00, Hanazono, Osaka) (The game was eventually decided by lottery – the Laird would prefer 乪sudden death.乫)  ; (2) Teikyo University 76 Rokko Fighting Bull 7 (14.00, Prince Chichibu, Tokyo) (Clearly a mismatch!) ; (3) Tokai University 7 NTT Communications 11 (12.00, Prince Chichibu) (Tokai would have scored another try but for some strange antics by their full back in the in-goal area...he tried to get nearer the posts, passed the ball and it was taken by a NTT player!)  ; (4) Kobe Seiko Kobelco Steelers 19 Toyota Verblitz 36 (12.00, Hanazono) ;

Round 2 February 14 (Sun) (5) NEC 38 Teikyo 5; (6) NTT 17 Toyota 50 (Prince Chichibu);

(The Teikyo game was on NHK also, soon after the game but not live.)

Semi-finals February 20 (Sat) (7) Sanyo Wild Knights 25 NEC 16 (14.00, Chichibu); (8) Toyota 23 Toshiba Brave Lupus 10 (14.00, Hanazono)

FINAL PREVIEW

Final February 28 (Sun) Sanyo 22 Toyota 17 (14.00, Prince Chichibu)

Congratulations to Sanyo for their third championship in a row! They certainly deserved to win, though Toyota also played well and gave us a final worthy of the name. Well Done to both teams!!

Japan Times report

Wild afternoon (Daily Yomiuri report)

The JRFU official report in Japanese includes clickable thumbnails.

 

(A rather complicated competition, which is fairly predictable except for the occasional major upset: Waseda v Toyota February 12, 2006 anyone?? ;-)

 

Total Rugby IRB radio

IRB World rankings

J Sports TV schedules.

(At least two Top League games were shown each round.)

JRFU Top League 2009-10

JRFU Top League 2009-10 Preview ; Changes to Top League 2009-10

Top League schedule 2009-10 season (Japanese) ; Express Results (Japanese, for mobile phones) 

1.    Previews: Round One; Round Two; Round Three; Round Four; Round Five; Round Six; Round Seven; Round Eight; Round Nine; Round Ten; Round 11; Round 12; Round 13 (Final round, January 9, 2010)

2. Wrap-ups: Round One; Round Two; Round Three; Round Four; Round Five; Round Six; Round Seven; Round Eight; Round Nine; Round Ten; Round 11; Round 12; Round 13

3. Statistics: Round One; Round Two; Round Three; Round Four; Round Five; Round Six; Round Seven; Round Eight; Round Nine; Round Ten; Round 11; Round 12; Round 13

4. Team Profiles: TOSHIBA Brave Lupus; SANYO Wild Knights; SUNTORY Sungoliath; Kobe KOBELCO Steelers; NEC Green Rockets;

5. Man of the Match: Rounds 1 through 11

6. Fixtures and Results: After 12 rounds

Online Top League tickets from the JRFU website

(Note: Chichibunomiya and Hanazono games only)

Top League 2009-10 after the 13th (i.e. final) round

Team

P

W

D

L

F

A

Diff

BP1

BP2

Pts

1

Sanyo

13

12

1

0

534

175

359

9

-

59

2

Suntory

13

11

2

0

571

196

375

10

-

58

3

Toshiba

13

10

0

3

436

276

160

10

2

52

4

Toyota

13

10

1

2

394

219

175

6

-

48

5

Kobe

13

7

1

4

344

304

40

6

2

38

6

Kubota

13

6

0

7

313

339

-26

4

3

31

7

Sanix

13

6

0

7

311

371

-60

5

2

31

8

Coca-Cola

13

7

0

6

299

448

-149

3

-

31

9

Yamaha

13

5

2

6

311

327

-16

3

2

30

10

NEC

13

4

0

9

224

280

-56

4

5

25

11

Kintetsu

13

4

1

8

218

348

-130

3

2

23

12

Ricoh

13

4

0

9

262

422

-160

1

2

19

13

Honda

13

1

0

12

255

464

-209

2

4

10

14

Kyuden

13

0

0

13

199

502

-303

2

2

4

Four points for win, two for draw, one bonus point for four tries or more (BP1) and one bonus point for losing by seven or less (BP2).

The top four finishers qualify for the Playoff Tournament, the finals series for the 2009-10 Top League season.

The top four finishers automatically qualify for the 47th National Championship 2010 with the teams that finish 5th to 10th playing off to determine the final 2 Top League teams.

The bottom two finishers are automatically relegated to regional leagues for the 2010-11 season.

The teams that finish 11th and 12th go through the promotion and relegation play-offs against regional challengers to retain their places in Top League for 2010-11.

 

Leading Points Scorers (final)

 

 

Name

Team

T

G

PG

DG

Pts

1

Atsushi Tanabe

Sanyo

4

48

25

-

191

2

Ryan Nicholas

Suntory

6

46

17

-

173

3

Shaun Webb

Coca-Cola

8

25

20

-

150

4

Shane Drahm

Kubota

2

28

16

7

135

5

David Hill

Toshiba

4

39

8

-

122

6

Ayumu Goromaru

Yamaha

-

27

19

-

111

7

Yoshimitsu Kawano

Ricoh

1

23

15

2

102

8

Orene Ai乫i

Toyota

4

21

5

1

80

9

Hirotoki Onozawa

Suntory

14

-

-

-

70

10

Tomoki Kitagawa

Sanyo

13

-

-

-

65

11

Daisuke Yamamoto

Kobe

1

15

8

-

59

12

Thinus Delport

Kobe

3

15

4

-

57

13

Tadanobu Ko

Kintetsu

3

8

7

-

52

 

Leading Try Scorers (final)

 

 

Name

Team

Tries

1

Hirotoki Onozawa

Suntory

14

2

Tomoki Kitagawa

Sanyo

13

3

Go Aruga

Suntory

10

3

Toshiaki Hirose

Toshiba

10

3

Yasunori Nagatomo

Suntory

10

3

Steven Bates

Toshiba

10

7

Steven Yates

Toyota

9

7

Shinji Nakazono

Yamaha

9

9

Akihito Yamada

Honda

8

9

Shota Horie

Sanyo

8

9

Shaun Webb

Coca-Cola

8

12

Takashi Miyake

Sanyo

7

12

Hideki Namba

Toyota

7

12

Neil Brew

Toshiba

7

 

Top League awards 2009-10 (MVP, Best XV etc.)

Top League proposal

Why not reduce the number of teams from 14 to 12, and have them each play 22 games on a home and away basis like the Guinness Premiership? The first season of the Top League (2003-4) and also the second and third seasons had 12 teams, so why not go back to that (though I think there were only 11 rounds played at that time). It would surely ease the revenue problems experienced by some clubs (e.g. Yamaha Jubilo, where the company owning the team has recently pulled the plug), and the season would be longer. 14 teams which play each other once only (i.e. 13 rounds) doesn乫t seem to work as well as possible in terms of boosting the popularity of the Top League.

The Guinness Premiership season runs from the beginning of September (exactly the same as the Top League) to the beginning of May, with the final at the end of May. Is that too long for Japanese Rugby? The Top League playoff tournament currently finishes at end of January, with the final league round played on January 9th. Maybe it is time to cut the Top League out of the national championships altogether, and treat it as a separate and fully professional entity. (However, this proposal would probably spell the end of the national championship, now in its 47th year, and there might be some reluctance on the part of the authorities to do this!)

February 22nd

Maybe the Laird was a 乬bit harsh乭 in suggesting (see Feb 17th below) that two SA journos should do time on Robben Island... how about Groot Drakenstein (Victor Verster prison) near Paarl instead? It is no doubt more comfortable and was recently named a world heritage site to commemorate Mandela乫s release 20 years ago... ;-)

 

February 21st

Yahoo reported yesterday that 15 players are leaving Suntory at the same time as coach Kiyomiya. The idea is to slim down and so strengthen the team. Watch this space...

 

February 17th

 

Mixed view of Japan justified (Daily Yomiuri) It seems like a couple of South African writers have got the wrong idea and tried to make a funny headline. But if they are hurling insults it is a 乪long toss乫, so to speak, all the way from SA to Japan and so naturally they didn乫t quite hit the target. (Maybe they could be retired from journalism and take up jobs as quarrymen on Robben Island? There would appear to be vacant positions and accommodation there... ;-) 

 

As for deciding drawn games, the Laird strongly dislikes soccer-style penalty shoot-outs. (Martin Williams forced into taking penalties? Poor chap! That is ridiculous.) However, it is really for the IRB to state how the results of drawn games should be decided and make a worldwide rule, and in the absence of such a rule the Japanese are entirely justified in doing it their way, odd as it may appear to some people!

 

February 10th

 

Suntory coach Kiyomiya quits in wake of loss...as does the Waseda University coach Ryuji Nakatake. As the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) once promised, it seems likely 乬they乫ll be baaack!!乭 (at least Kiyomiya will!)

 

February 9th

 

Schoolboy mistake costs Tokai University – The Laird thinks the blushes of the Tokai full back might have been spared by not naming him in this Daily Yomiuri article, but anyway he will surely learn from his mistake and be a better player for it in the long term. (Best of Luck, Shohei Toyoshima, and hope to see you in the national side a couple of years from now, together with Michael Leitch – already capped – who kindly consoled you after the game!! ;-) As for deciding winners by drawing lots, straws etc. the Laird would prefer the teams to play till the next score, a 乪sayonara乫 win!

 

Good that Albert van den Berg and Andre Pretorius are apparently coming to Japan...And finally the idea of Eddie Jones taking over at Suntory – if the rumours are correct – has an element of the cuckoo乫s nest about it!! (One can乫t blame Kiyomiya, who was originally the sole head coach of Suntory, for wanting to fly off to another perch in such circumstances. And maybe Suntory will also perform better with one head coach rather than two. Presumably also the head coach乫s office at Suntory乫s ground will be restored to its original size? It was partitioned into two rooms to make a separate office for EJ when he became Director of Rugby.)

 

Kiyomiya-san thanks everyone and explains his decision on his website in Japanese. He says he is proud to have coached Suntory Sungoliath for four years, and that as a professional he always had the feeling that if the results were not good he would resign (mi wo hiku), and that his contract was a one year renewable one.  He feels anyway that Suntory is going in the right direction. He again thanks all the players and fans for their warm support, and hopes to meet everyone again in the 乪coach乫s room乫 (kantokushitsu, i.e. his official blog) soon...  (The message is dated February 8th. It is a most dignified exit, especially by modern standards. He is the master of his fate. He is the captain of his soul... ;-)

 

February 8th

 

I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul...

 

Invictus乫 is a great movie, well worth seeing. The Laird saw it in a Warner Mycal cinema last night near his home. The healing power of Rugby and its ability to unite a nation was wonderfully exploited by Nelson Mandela as the film makes clear. After all those years when rugby games against South African teams were disrupted by anti-apartheid protesters (and indeed apartheid was an evil and vast mechanism for repression) it seems that Rugby had the last laugh!!

 

Meanwhile the Six Nations 2010 Round One yielded more or less the expected results... And Coach Kiyomiya has declared his intention to resign after Suntory Sungoliath was knocked out of the National Championship yesterday...

 

February 6th

 

Rebels set to tour Japan (Daily Yomiuri)

 

February 4th 

 

Dawson, Damon and Pienaar discuss Invictus, RWC 1995, Robben Island, Capetown barbecues... Mutual backslapping taken to new heights...with a few kind words for Nelson as well!!

 

In an important article in the Times of January 10th Stephen Jones says 乬Rugby must return to the painful days of jolly ruckers乭! As the owner of the Ruckingham Ruckers club in Blackout Rugby the Laird is 100% behind this idea. (By the way, the club is currently second in Japan Division II, League 4, with a home stadium named 乪Global Rucking乫. Our club song is – you guessed it - Ruckin乫 all over the world!!...;-)

Supplementary Foot Note: The Laird乫s support for reclaiming the ruck has nothing to do with the fact that Scotland has always been traditionally and by reputation rather good at rucking... well, almost nothing I should say! ;-)

 

January 25th  

It was very good to see Robbie Deans sitting next to Tony Brown at Hanazono for Sanyo v Toyota yesterday. What a privilege for the young(er) man!! (So there was an upside of the match ban for TB after all... ;-) And as Bill McLaren might have said, 乬they乫ll be dancing in the streets at Cheviot to the north of Christchurch after the opening of the Deans memorial stand at AMI stadium... [and in the streets of Balclutha for that matter...]乭.

 

But Japan is suddenly becoming very popular with top coaches, isn乫t it? Eddie Jones, Jake White, Robbie Deans... who乫s left? It must be partly to do with getting RWC 2019 which has sparked interest. Deans will be with Sanyo till tomorrow (Tuesday, January 26th) according to the J Sports commentary team who spoke with Sanyo coach Iijima about his visit.

  

January 24th

After a disappointing 17-27 away loss yesterday in the last league game of Blackout Rugby Season 7, Ruckingham Ruckers (alias Ruckers of Kyushu, or Kyushu Ruck乫n乫Rollers) are looking forward to a rematch at Global Rucking on Friday evening at 7.35 pm in the playoffs!!

Okinawa RFC (1st in League) v Shirakawa-go Ducks (4th) ; Ruckingham Ruckers (2nd) v Niigata Next 21 (3rd)

Final: January 30th (Sat) 2.35 pm Japan Time

 

January 21st

 R.I.P. Bill McLaren – like so many others around the world the Laird grew up listening to his wonderful commentaries. He made the game so much more enjoyable, and was a true gentleman. A truly irreplaceable man: Thank you, Sir, for all the Memories!!

Andy Robinson has some very well-chosen words about the Legend from Hawick, before commenting on the Scottish team, Edinburgh and Glasgow. And so does John Beattie! And this from Brian Moore: Among all the many memories I have of him one thought stays with me; Bill absolutely loved rugby and rugby absolutely loved him. He will be missed and he is an impossible act to follow. How many men leave that sort of mark on the world?乭 And let乫s not forget Sir Ian McGeechan's tribute either! (Hopefully Murrayfield will be renamed the Bill McLaren stadium in his honour, and a posthumous knighthood is surely appropriate too?)

Top League playoff tournament – for what used to be called the Microsoft Cup (until Microsoft ended sponsorship last year)

Live on J Sports

January 24th (Sun) Sanyo Top League 1) 25 Toyota (Top League 4) 21 (14.00, Hanazono) (Obviously a close game – Sanyo without Tony Brown may be less formidable?) ; Toshiba Top League 3) 35 Suntory (Top League 2) 24 (14.00, Prince Chichibu) (Toshiba wanted this game more, after a fairly humiliating heavy defeat at the hands of Suntory in the 乪Fuchu Derby乫 league game...) ;

January 31st Final (14.00, Prince Chichibu)Sanyo Wild Knights 0 Toshiba Brave Lupus 6 (Clash – or maybe that should be Ultimate Crash? - of the Electro-Titans!! Hugely physical, as Tony Brown told the Daily Yomiuri reporter...)

Online tickets

Top League Wild Card Tournament – for places in the National Championship

Jan. 16:  (1) Coca Cola 31 Yamaha 17 (12.00, Hanazono); (2) Sanix 5 NEC 33 (14.00, Hanazono); Jan. 23: Kubota 21 NEC 22 (12.00, Chichibunomiya); Kobe 40 Coca Cola 28 (14.00, Chichibunomiya)

TL Promotion/Relegation games Feb. 13: Ricoh 59 Mazda 12 (Top Challenge 1 3rd placed team); Kintetsu 28 Yokogawa 8 (Top Challenge 2 1st placed team)

So Ricoh and Kintetsu will stay in the TL next season.

Top Challenge Series (1 and 2)Preview – for the right to be automatically promoted in place of the 13th and 14th placed teams (Honda and Kyuden) in the case of the top two teams in Top Challenge Series 1; or to challenge the 12th placed team (Ricoh) in the case of the 3rd placed team of Top Challenge 1, and the 11th placed team (Kintetsu) in the case of the top team of Top Challenge 2. (Make sense?!?)

Jan. 16: Top Challenge 2: Chugoku Denryoku 17 Yokogawa Musashino 81 (12.30, Hiroshima); Top Challenge 1: Matsuda Blue Zoomers 0 NTT Communications 43 (14.30, Hiroshima)

Jan. 23: TC 2: NTT Docomo 137 Chugoku Denryoku 0 (12.00, Hanazono); TC 1: Toyota Jido Shokki 55 Matsuda Blue Zoomers 0 (14.00, Hanazono)

Jan. 30 (Preview): TC 2: Yokogawa Musashino 29 NTT Docomo 23(12.00, Chichibunomiya); TC 1: NTT Communications 38 Toyota Jido Shokki 35 (14.00, Chichibunomiya)

NTT Communications, Toyota Jido Shokki promoted to Top League (Jan. 23) – Congratulations to these two teams!! Neither have been in the Top League before.

 

乬The following have been selected to represent the glorious Ruckingham Ruckers v Niigata Next 21 this Saturday at Rockin Rods Tribute stadium, Kanto area, kick off 2.35 pm. (Bring clean boots & kit!! The plane leaves at 7pm sharp on Friday evening from Kitakyushu airport, latecomers to make their own travel arrangements.)

 

1. Daniel 乪Beefy乫 Baron; 2. Ryan 乪The Boot乫 Howell; 3. Wyatt 乪Earp乫 Bekker; 4. Reijiro 乪Stingray乫 Serizawa; 5. Azelio 乪Giraffe乫 Maiale; 6. Masato 乪O-tobai乫 Suzuki; 7. Hisato 乪Lightning乫 Torisei; 8. Arana 乪Tank乫 Tago; 9. Umberto 乪The Artist乫 Vitozzi; 10. Ronan 乪Hornet乫 Shannon; 11. Teresio 乪Terry乫 DiGuglilemo (capt.); 12. Chase 乪The Egg乫 Stern; 13. Rano 乪Rabbit乫 Babitu; 14. Claudio 乪Caesar乫 Tudorache; 15. Jimbo 乪Grocer乫 Blakey. Subs: TBA

Signed: Tsugahara Tomika (Coach)乭

 

January 20th Playoff乫s nothing but dog乫s brekkie. The Laird yesterday removed a comment he had made above about the 47th National Championship being a 乬dog乫s breakfast乭 because he thought it was 乬a bit harsh乭. Then blow me down, a similar phrase appears as part of a Yomiuri headline!! ;-) Actually the Laird feels the current situation is not so much a dog乫s breakfast, more like a wonderfully complex kanji character. The character for depression (乪utsu乫 ) has 29 strokes, and the Laird certainly gets depressed, or rather exhausted and confused, when trying to work out all these tournaments! Ah well, maybe it乫s 乪different strokes for different folks乫 after all... (Dog乫s breakfast? More like a dog乫s... dinner!! ;-)

 

January 19th Last night the Laird乫s Blackout Rugby team, Ruckingham Ruckers, beat the 乬jammy乭 Doughnuts of Grampian region in Scotland in an international friendly, 24-14 at home. After going 24-0 up it was disappointing to concede two tries near the end of the game, but we乫ll take the win!! Next up is the final Japan league game of Season 7 on Saturday against Niigata Next 21, followed probably by the playoff tournament. (The Laird has apologised to the owner of Doughnuts for giving wrong directions from the UK to Kyushu... turn right at Inchon, not left, or you乫ll end up in North Korea!! ;-)

 

Blackout Rugby, Japan Div II.4

 

 

Club

Played

W

L

D

For

Against

Margin

BT

BL

Total

1.

Okinawa RFC

13

13

0

0

822

39

+783

11

0

63

2.

Ruckingham Ruckers

13

10

3

0

779

97

+682

10

1

51

3.

Niigata Next 21

13

7

6

0

399

243

+156

6

1

35

4.

Shirakawa-go Ducks

13

8

5

0

262

395

-133

2

1

35

5.

Rishiri Rebun Thunder

13

6

7

0

370

372

-2

5

2

31

6.

Asakusa Prey

13

5

8

0

210

450

-240

1

1

22

7.

Iga Ueno Reds

13

3

10

0

166

747

-581

0

1

13

8.

Akan Buccaneers

13

0

13

0

73

738

-665

0

1

1

 

January 14th The Laird may be an old fogey on disciplinary matters (see previous entry for January 12th) and he乫s even older than Eddie Jones (but not as old as Graham Henry! ;-). Anyway, he still doesn乫t understand why rucking is so frowned on these days. Isn乫t it a dumbing down of the game to gain wider appeal for the 乪product乫 and avoid frightening off the mothers?? Be this as it may, a 乪tickle with the sprigs乫 is entirely different to downward stamping which is both dangerous and highly undesirable, as is raking studs down someone乫s back, putting them near a person乫s face deliberately or recklessly etc. (The Laird once many years ago got stud marks on his forehead during a game at K.R. & A.C., thanks for that Simon!) 

 

Then again, is rucking banned merely because some people can乫t tell the difference between rucking and stamping or other dangerous uses of the boot? Whatever the reason(s) for the ban, skilful rucking – in which the studs do not point vertically downwards but are at an angle with or parallel to the ground – is a form of art, and in danger of becoming a lost one. It would clean up so many of these wretched multiple pile-ups euphemistically referred to as 乪breakdowns乫 which plague the modern game, and sort out the 乪beached whales乫 lying all over the place as well... The knock-on effects (excuse the pun! ;-) for other areas of the game would also be spectacularly positive!!

 

January 12th Wild Knights乫 Brown handed 1-game ban Tony Brown of Sanyo can have no complaint whatever about this. He should remember that he is not hired as a bantam weight boxer, nor as a wrestler (there was a separate head lock incident before the 乪boxing乫) but as a professional rugby player!! Likewise Justin Ives乫 sinbinning for a dangerous tackle seemed fair enough to the Laird. (If you take a man into the air in a tackle you have a responsibility to set him down safely!)

 

46th University Championship 2009-10 (16 teams): Dec. 20: Keio Gijuku 41 Fukuoka 15 (Level 5, Fukuoka); Hosei 51 Ryutsu Keizai 22 (Mizuho, Aichi); Tenri 50 Setsunan 19 (Hanazono); Tsukuba 22 Tokai 29 (Prince Chichibu, Tokyo); Kwansei Gakuin 38 Doshisha 24 (Hanazono); Meiji 19 Takushoku 12 (Kumagaya, Saitama); Teikyo 17 Kanto Gakuin 17 (Chichibu, Teikyo win on no. of tries scored); Ritsumeikan 0 Waseda 38 (Mizuho)

Round 2 – December 27: Keio 33 Hosei 24 (12.00, Chichibunomiya, Hope Eddie Jones enjoyed that one, he乫s advising Keio and was spotted on the TV ;-); Teikyo 31 Waseda 20 (14.00, Chichibunomiya, former Waseda coach Kiyomiya-san will not have enjoyed that one, also spotted by the TV cameras...but Teikyo were clearly the better-prepared team on the day)

Kwansei Gakuin 29 Meiji 62 (12.00, Mizuho, Welcome back, Meiji! ;-); Tenri 12 Tokai 53 (14.00, Mizuho)

Semi-finals (2 January 2010): Keio 14 Tokai 19 (12.15, National Stadium – Though 2010 is the Year of the Tiger, it was not to be Keio乫s year, even though they wear yellow and black tiger jerseys!); Meiji 12 Teikyo 43 (14.00, National Stadium – The two coaches were sat almost next to each other – unusual! Anyway, an easy win for Teikyo this time...)

FINALJan. 10 (Sun), 14.00, National Stadium.  Tokai 13 Teikyo 14

Whichever side won it was going to be their first championship, which is a welcome shot in the arm for this competition after so many Meiji, Waseda and Kanto Gakuin wins... and the Doshisha triple in the far past! Congratulations to Teikyo for avenging their loss to Waseda in the same final last year, and to both teams for producing as good a spectacle as the current rules allow, with the 乪breakdown乫 (a rather negative word, and not one you will find in the Laws of Rugby!) providing more or less the usual shambles. (Bring back the jolly ruckers!!)