2010 saw the inaugural Tokyo Gaijin - Seoul Survivors exchange take place. The event was the brainchild of current Gaijin and former Survivor Aaron Nutsford, and perfect Seoul spring weather greeted the Gaijin tourists who had made the trip over early in September.
With the Gaijin unable to gather 15 players for the tour, a 10's rugby format was decided upon, with the venue being a rugby specific field situated beside the Han River, a short taxi ride away from the Gaijin base, Itaewon (Seoul's version of Roppongi). With not a cloud in the sky, and the temperature being not too hot or cold, no one could have asked for better conditions to kick off what will hopefully be a long association between these two clubs. Being the only "foreigner" rugby team in Seoul, the Survivors have a large player base and were able to field two 10's teams for the tournament. One of Korea's stronger rugby universities "Yonsei" also had a team participating in the event.
The first game of the tournament saw the feisty Yonsei team snatch a hard-fought victory over the Seoul Survivors A team. Watching from the sideline, the Gaijin were immediately aware that this was certainly not going to be a walk-in-the-park with both teams looking hungry, fast and physical.
Having only managed to gather 6 playing members for the trip over, the Gaijin were fortunate to obtain the services of a number of other ex-pat rugby players living in Korea in order to field a full 10's team. These players included Irishman Philli O'Brien, Kiwi Gareth McKinnon, and Frenchman Louie. All performed admirably and are now honorary Gaijin members.
The Gaijin's first match pitted them against the Survivors' B team. A hard-fought encounter saw the Gaijin 2 points ahead with time up on the clock but a defensive lapse in the midfield let a Survivor back through to score the winning try under the posts. Final score 17-12.
The Gaijin's next game was against Yonsei University, who had beaten the Survivors A team in the competition opener and apparently had some Korean national representatives within their ranks. In a thrilling, back-and-forth encounter, the Gaijin came away with a 35-32 victory and secured their first win of the comp. One interesting observation that came out of this game (and all of the games the Yonsei team played for that matter) was the Koreans' proclivity for biffo and rough play. They obviously didn't like being tackled and were not afraid to retaliate with a bit of push and shove along with some choice Hangul obscenities (which fortunately none of us understood).
Unfortunately, the tough win against Yonsei and the lack of a reserve bench had taken its toll on the Gaijin team and we were handed a spanking by the Survivors' A team in the final game of the day which was played under a beautiful setting Seoul sun. This certainly didn't detract from a great day of rugby though and at the conclusion of the on-field activities, the teams adjourned to "Scrooge Bar" in nearby Itaewon for a big feast and some story telling over a far few jugs.
Other than the rugby, the Gaijin members were able to sample a little Korean culture which included trips to Namdemon market, to the demilitarised zone, and a couple of night-safaris out in Itaewon observing the local wildlife. Overall it was a great tour enjoyed by all and we look forward to repaying the hospitality shown to us by the Seoul Survivors team when they visit Japan next year. It is hoped that this event will become an annual fixture in the calendars of the two teams and after a very enjoyable and social trip to Seoul this year, the Tokyo Gaijin are already looking forward to hosting the return trip by the Survivors in 2011 (not to mention looking forward to extracting a bit of revenge on the footy field!).