On Friday June 5 the 2009 Junior World Cup kicked off in Japan. A group of Tokyo Gaijin went along to the Tokyo games to take a look, while Hitoshi Chihara's father went along to see the talent on show down in Fukuoka (chiefly Canada and Australia).
Below is the summary of what was sent over to the Rugby In Asia lads for their editing. It was also passed on to Jed at the Rugby Round Table in case he wanted to write something up - it was the least we could do as the big fella was responsible for getting us our media passes. With TGRFC having contact with several of the visiting teams (Japan, NZ, Canada and England) the plan was to go down and get some quotes direct from the players. However in typical tardy fashion someone brought beers and all plans as such were swiftly aborted, especially as, with media passes, we were allowed out of the grounds to buy more beer (with no queues!). Unlike the rest of us slobs, Mike did the team proud and spent the entire time taking photos down at ground level (in the rain no less). Pics will be up soon and some of them are very good.
The IRB Toshiba Junior World Championships kicked off last Friday night with games in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka. A quick revisit to last year which was the first JWC and was held in sunny Wales... The Kiwi’s, Poms, Bokkes and locals made the Semi-finals in 2008, with the Kiwi’s and Poms prevailing to set up a tasty finale. That final fell flat though in terms of a contest as the New Zealanders shut England out to win 38-3. The Kiwi’s spanked Tonga (48-9), Ireland (65-10) and the Argies (60-0) in the pool games, before seeing Wales off in the rain 31-6. England beat Australia and South Africa to make the final but it was Wales’ Leigh Halfpenny who was voted Player of the Tournament. Halfpenny is now somewhere in South Africa getting tenderized by local Boers in the build up to the Springboks.
First up in the program was the future of Samoa against Scotland. The Samoan boys started slow and it looked like Scotland were going to dominate early in the second half as the island lads looked poked. In particular the man-mountain tight head prop looked knackered but according to the official program, this guy weighed in at 168 kilo’s packed over his 198 cm frame. WTF? Scotland had their own man-mountain in the form of lock Richie Gray, who along with his 125 kg’s also brought a fair amount of energy and leadership to his pack. Early on the players to look out for – according to the Tokyo Gaijin selection panel: a Sarfie (Rory), a Pom (Andy), a Basque (Paulo) and a Kiwi (Blake) – were the Samoan halfback who set up a nice try in the first half with a deft chip, chase and offload to open-side Falemiga Selesele and possibly Scottish fullback Peter Horne who ran the ball nicely until he picked up a leg injury and started doing daft things. For example, taking a kick reception in his 22, rolling back and lying down with the ball, then getting up and going outside his 22 to kick out of the full. The jury is still out on his game and he has another couple of matches to prove himself. The Scottish outside center Ashleah McCulloch also looked dangerous (despite his name), as did their open-side flanker Chris Fusaro.
With Samoa having opened the scoring with their 7 pointer, Scotland dominated the play to be up 14 points to 7 going into the final stages of the game and their backs were growing more confident after some earlier indecision. For the Samoans, our panel thought they must have just been here for the parties as they looked tired by the boat trip up and lacked any form of organization in the back line, opting to kick away possession on every single occasion. It looked ominous until the island boys snuck in a try in the 58th minute by left wing Lemisio Faimoa on a nice switch pass from his flyhalf. In the wet Faimoa dived early and just kept sliding under the defense all the way to the line and suddenly Samoa was electrified. Scotland hardly saw the ball again and certainly never threatened. Samoa took another penalty a minute later to level the scores at 14 apiece and stayed in the Scottish half looking for the breakthrough. Scottish defense was solid but the error rate from Samoa and their bad habit of chipping possession away remained preventing them from crossing the whitewash. As the clock wound down it looked like it was all over as Scotland kicked up to the Samoa half. Samoa’s replacement wing Jonathan Malo took the ball and ran it straight back at a swarm of Scots somehow slipping through the would-be tackles to get up near the 22. Within a flash the ball was flipped to reserve fly-half Winston Wilson who fired over a wobbly but accurate drop goal to win the game in the 80th minute. And the crowd went wild!
Queue the seasoned English professionals against the local Universities. The England team is made up of young hopefuls from the likes of Leicester Tigers, Harlequins, Sale Sharks, Newcastle Falcons and other leading names of English rugby, while the local boys came direct from Teikyo, Meiji, Waseda and Keio Universities. It was expected to be a pasting and it was. By this time beer replacements had been found and the details started getting hazy but it was keenly noted that the England back row was a major factor in the match with their pace and power bringing the ball up. Especially the flankers were superior in the rucks and in support play; in the loose they showed pace to burn on some telling line breaks.
Japan’s flyhalf blew three kick off’s and really struggled to get in the game. Mind you the England backs were bigger than the Japanese forwards and when the Japanese fly-half did get possession he had the English flankers in his face all day. Sadly no-one really stood out for the locals as a future savior of Japanese rugby but their backs played with high energy and did cause some problems for the Brits. To their credit the Japanese scrum held quite well and they tackled their guts out until the inevitable onslaught came. The England defensive line was always intact and Japan never really had a chance, only threatening the English line once late in the piece. England truly looked like a professional team on a mission but mistakes were common and discipline cost them a couple yellow cards.
Players commented on by our panel included the English open-side Josh Ovens, the halfback and big Number 8 Carl Fearns. Also we can’t forget Roid Man #1 and Roid Man #2. When Roid Man #1 (Courtney Lawes) scored a try late in the game it was noted by the panel that the monster walked funny. Blinked funny in fact. These were beasts unleashed to intimidate the local academics through the second half. Final score 43-nil. It could have been higher if not for the increasingly heavy rainfall. England will be a strong team through this tournament and we expect to see them in the semis where the Roid Brothers will once again be let out of the cage.
On the way to the pub score sheets were handed to us and the following comes from a glance in their direction. Australia destroyed Canada 86-nil with halfback Richard Kingi (Queensland Reds - in pic) and fullback Kurtley Beale (‘Tahs) scoring 4 tries each. Matthew To’omua (Brumbies) playing flyhalf also picked up a couple. Our man at the ground did not bother to submit his match report and simply said Canada were rubbish with a long way to go before they become a contender. With 9 Super 14 contracted players, including the above mentioned stars, Australia will be a solid team through the tournament. We hope that Canada can learn a few things from the Tourney to take home and work on.
Fiji were blown out in the second half by the Bokkes in Osaka. Going into the break the Sarfies were up 14-10 but added 22 points in what must have been a dominated performance. All of Fiji’s points (including the first try of the match) came from outside center Noa Nakaitaci (listed as a fullback from Vitogo in the program). For the Biltongs tries came from Number 8 Christian Stander (24 min), center and captain Rob Ebersohn (49), his twin brother and fullback Josias Ebersohn (55), and left winger Sampie Mastriet (70).
In Nagoya, Argentina went down to Ireland 9-16. Irish outside center Nevin Spence scored the only try of the game in the 13th minute and from then on it reads like a kick fest. Argentina were close and it was two second half penalties that saw the Irishmen home. A droppie was attempted so we can assume Ireland had the territory and possession but Argentina kept them off their line. This was an almost identically opposite result to their 2008 match but the Irish come up against the Kiwi’s on Tuesday.
Uraguay were subjected to a 75-nil drubbing by last 2008 Champs New Zealand in the other Nagoya game. Zac Guildford ('Canes) is the only remaining member of the 2008 squad and he was able to run in a hat-trick of tries in the first half. New Zealand coach Dave Rennie said after the game he was “reasonably happy” with the effort, while the Uruguayans were just proud to be there.
Wales thumped Tonga 51-5 in Fukuoka, showing the island boys why they were Semi-finalists in 2008 and a team to be reckoned with this year. It must be said that Welsh Number 8 Roy Pitman looks more like a Brown Brother than a pasty Welshman, but he is one big unit. It seems the Welsh scrum was a powerhouse that unsettled the Tongans from the outset. Tonga gave up two yellow cards (at the same time) and sound like fitness is an issue as they faded in the second half.
Finally, France overcame Italy 43-13 in Osaka. Right wing Benjamin Fall scored a pair of tries but it appears that the competition was over early on as Italy were dominated by their 6N neighbours.
Thanks to Jedi for sorting out the media passes. They saved the day on several occasions. Firstly the toilets were broken down and the queue was a mile long but those with media passes could head for the carpark! Secondly the pricey beers at the stadium (and more of those lengthy queues), meant a quick trip to the beer shop across the street from the stadium was required. Great stuff!
The Tokyo Gaijin
OTHER TID BITS:
* It so happens that Australia's Kingi scored a record 26 points while carving the Canadians a new one!
* The crowd of 9,120 people was a record for the JWC (only in its second year), eclipsing the attendance of the 2008 Finals! If this works out, Japan could well be looking good for the 2015 World Cup and we should all be looking to promote rugby toward the RWC 15 and the 2016 Olympics!
* It was an Argentinean prop who started the "Nip-pon" chant and Mexican (Argie) wave that shook the ground while England were tearing Japan to pieces! He is one of us: a Tokyo Gaijin!
* Ze Bombaa owes Bunter 500 yen for being sucked in to such a spastic bet (on the kicking)!
* Three teams did not score a single point on opening day - how would you feel if you were Canada, Uraguay or Japan? Ouch.
* Those Bokke twin brothers also scored tries in their opener at the 2008 JWC.
* We are still trying to work out who Roid Man #2 was. More on that later.
* Roid Man #1 on film (see Right)... actually he doesn't look so massive up close (or sober)...