May 10, 2005

Rugby in Japan Newsletter

RiJ this week brings you Asian Qualification for RWC 07 starting with Japan 91 beating Hong Kong 3. A lopsided game for Rugby fans to have their first look at the CBs for 2005 on home soil, but nonetheless pleasing to be on the inflicting side rather than the receiving side for a change. RiJ also wraps-up the recent NZU tour to Japan. Enjoy the read.

Contents

  • RWC 07 Asian Qualification
  • Japan 91 d Hong Kong 3 
  • (Korea v Japan) 
  • NZU to Japan 2005: wrap-up
  • The Rumour Mill
  • On the Horizon

 

RWC 07 Asian Qualification

In KK Sun 16 May 04 RiJ first discussed the process of Asian Qualification for RWC 07 in France. As it stood then, 12 Asian countries were grouped into 4 divisions of 3 teams each based on IRB rankings at the time. Japan was ranked first through to Thailand in 12th position.

2004 Asian groupings
Division 1 Division 2 Division 3 Division 4
Japan Hong Kong Arabian Gulf Sri Lanka
Korea Singapore Malaysia India
Taiwan China Kazakhstan Thailand

In each division teams played each other once with top & bottom finishers in each division interchanging. In 2004 Japan A beat Taiwan 62-9 & the full national side drew 19-all with Korea in Tokyo. As a result Korea topped Division 1 with Japan in second & Taiwan third. Depending on results from matches in 2004 teams were regrouped for a similar round of matches in 2005. Hong Kong replaced Taiwan in Division 1, so this year Japan plays Hong Kong & Korea. Guam has also been added to Division 4.

2005 Asian groupings
Division 1 Division 2 Division 3 Division 4
Korea Taiwan Singapore Kazakhstan
Japan  China  Sri Lanka Malaysia
Hong Kong Arabian Gulf Thailand India
   Guam

A lot of these 2005 Asian Qualification matches will be taking place over the next few months & RiJ will try to keep the reader posted. Recently China 22 d Taiwan 19 in Kunming.

Japan 91 d Hong Kong 3

Sun 8 May 2005
Chichibu, Tokyo
Kick-off 1PM local time.
Referee ?  KIM, Do-Suk (Korea)
Attendance ? less than 5,000
Halftime ? Japan 46 ? HK 3

Japan 91 ? tries: Ohata (6), Onozawa (2), Mizuno, Watanabe, Otukolo & Takagi; conversions: Hirose (11); penalties: Hirose (3)  d.
Hong Kong 3 ? penalties: Wigley.


Japan
 Name Club Age Hgt/wgt Caps
1 Shigeyasu TAKAGI Yamaha 29 180/108 2
2 Masakazu NAKABAYASHI Yamaha 26 178/102 1
3 Kenji KASAI Toshiba 28 184/118 4
4 Hajime KISO  Yamaha 26 195/105 14
5 Jamie WASHINGTON - 30 197/108 3
6 Ryota ASANO NEC 25 184/97 6
7 Yasunori WATANABE Toshiba 30 192/104 23
8 Takuro MIUCHI (Capt.) NEC 29 187/107 24
9 Takashi TSUJI NEC 27 167/73 4
10 Keiji HIROSE Toyota 31 170/74 38
11 Hiroki MIZUNO Toyota 23 170/75 2
12 Katoni OTUKOLO Saitama Tech Uni 22 186/98 1
13 Reuben PARKINSON - 32 183/97 8
14 Daisuke OHATA Kobe 29 176/82 47
15 Hirotoki ONOZAWA Suntory 26 180/82 24
     
16 Ken TSUKAGOSHI Toshiba 27 178/95 4
17 Ryo YAMAMURA Yamaha 23 185/108 15
18 Tomoaki NAKAI Toshiba 23 186/97 2
19 Hare MAKIRI Sanix 26 190/110 3
20 Shota GOTO Waseda Uni 22 170/71 2
21 Yukio MOTOKI Kobe 33 177/88 74
22 Christian ROAMANU Saitama Tech Uni 18 188/105 2
Coach Mitsutake Hagimoto

Subs ? 16-2, 78 min
17-3, 69 min
18-7, 64 min
19-5, 60 min
20 not used
21-12, 67 min
22-11, 64 min

Hong Kong
 Name Club PoB Age Hgt/Wgt Caps
1 Peter Spizzirri Valley USA 30 175/102 13
2 Tom Cameron HKFC SA 31 183/93 7
3 James Wood DeA Tigers Can 35 191/112 23
4 Lachlin Miller Valley Aus 32 193/98 13
5 Dan OConnor HKFC NZ 25 190/112 2
6 Bryan OHara Valley Aus 29 185/96 2
7 Andy Randall HKFC Aus 30 172/88 1
8 Andy Yuen Valley HK 24 184/90 1
9 Andrew Wong Kee Valley NZ 27 180/93 5
10 David Wigley HKFC HK 36 180/75 13
11 Chan Fuk Ping DeA Tigers HK 29 178/87 21
 12     Brett Forsyth (Capt.)     Valley     NZ     32     185/95     5
13     Jason Going     Valley     NZ     32     174/84     1
14     Alex Zenovic     DeA Tigers     Yugo     29     180/93     12
15     Paul Morehu     Aberdeen     NZ     27     180/75     1
                             
16     Duncan Robertson     HKFC     Sco     30     183/105     12
17     Leung Ming Hong     Kowloon     HK     24     165/77     -
18     Kwok Ka Chun     DeA Tigers     HK     19     185/93     -
19     Paul Gaffney     Valley     Aus     32     175/90     -
20     Liu Kwok Leung     DeA Tigers     HK     25     176/81     -
21     Lusiano Afeaki     HKFC     Tong     34     192/95     8
22     Tsang Hing Hong     DeA Tigers     HK     20     175/80     -
Coach Ivan Torpey  (Eng)

Hong Kong is the lowest ranked team Japan will face this season at 27th on the IRB ranking scale. While in contrast, Japan is perched in 18th place. In one form or another Japan & HK have met on 22 previous occasions with Japan having won 17 times. Thus, current world rankings & history dictates that Japan is odds on favourites to win this encounter. Although Japan & HK met regularly during the 90s, mostly through the Pacific Rim competition, the 2 teams last played a full Test in October 1998 as an Asian Qualifier for RWC 99.

HK is a team of nations & Rugby journeymen representing that certain element of the essence of amateur Rugby. A glance at the country of origins for the players in the above table seems to read like a guest list at the United Nations. However, Rugby players for Rugby sake was not enough to save HK against a much more polished Japan brimming with running confidence. Japan ran in 12 tries with remarkably, right wing Ohata running in 6 of his own. In the first 30 mins of the game it seemed a matter of give the ball to Ohata & he would score as he scored the first 4 of the match. However, he did go looking for the pill as he attached himself leech-like to the back of a rolling maul to bring up the first try of the game. Not to be out down, re-called fly half Hirose slotted 11 from 12 conversions & 3 from 4 penalties for a personal tally of 31 points for the Test. The tries for Ohata & the kicking of Hirose were obvious highlights of the Test but it is hard to gauge the overall performance of the team because of the softness of the opposition.

A further 2 players made their Test debuts in hooker Nakabayashi & Tongan-born centre Otukolo, while coach Hagimoto significantly reshuffled the XXII from the previous 2 recent Tests in South America. The front row was rotated & while Washington retained his place in the second row as he was joined by Kiso for his first Test of the season. Watanabe was also back in the starting line after suffering an injury on the French camp. The halves were also rotated with Tsuji & Hirose replacing Murata & Morita. Ohata was back on the right wing after recent experiments at outside centre & Otukolo debuted at No12. Although 12 tries were scored the ball was often getting stuck in midfield with Otukolo not always taking good options. Hard man Parkinson was solid at No13 & Onozawa was moved from the wing to fullback making way for Mizuno.

One point to note from this Test was the Korean Referee. In trying to be polite to the man in the middle, he was simply not up to the standard required at Test level. Closer scrutiny needs to be made of the potential Referees for Test matches involving Asian teams even if that means appointing the Referee from outside the region. It is simply not good enough to have poor quality Refereeing at this level.

As also reported last week, of the ten Tests now played under coach Mitsutake Hagimoto Japan have won 3, drawn one & lost 6. If the 4 losses at RWC 03 are added to the list, although under a different coach, Japan has lost ten of its last 14 starts. Not particularly encouraging for beleaguered Japanese Rugby fans. In a wry twist the first name for Hagimoto, that is Mitsutake, always comes up on the spell check as mistake. Now, we cannot really call the coach Mistake Hagimoto, can we? Anyway, as Hagimoto himself admitted recently during an interview in camp in France, he is standing on the coaching precipice, & that was before the 2 defeats in South America. The gamble with player selections & the adventure with the essence of French Rugby has to produce wins over the remainder of the season or Hagimoto is gone. Those big losses to Scotland & Wales last autumn are hanging heavy.

So who would take over? Another local coach? A foreign coach for the first time? Perhaps the experiment with Frenchmen Jean-Pierre Ellissalde & Edmond Jorda may continue with them in the drivers seat. Maybe John Kirwan as hinted at last week. Then, Mark Ella helped out during RWC 03 & he is probably still looking for a high profile coaching post.

NZU tour to Japan 05: Wrap-up

Game 1 - Sun 25 Apr 05, Nagai Stadium Osaka
NZU 42 d Japan A 18.

Game 2 ・Wed 27 Apr 05, Chichibu, Tokyo
NZU 38 d Japan B 23.

Game 3 ・Sun 1 May 05, Chichibu, Tokyo.
NZU 31 d Japan Unis 29.

For NZU it was their turn to tour this year after Japan A journeyed south last year. On that tour, the A team enjoyed one win against South Island Unis 62-26, but were beaten by Mid-Canterbury 51-17 & humbled by NZU 99-12 at Jade Stadium. In 2003 when NZU were last here it included the likes of lock Tom Donnelly now with the Highlanders & rising star in centre Conrad Smith with the Hurricanes. On that tour, although NZU beat Japan A 97-14 they were controversially beaten by Waseda Uni 37-31, largely due to a blown out penalty count. In 2 years time perhaps some of the class of 05 will also be knocking on the door of higher Rugby honours. The 2005 tour to Japan is the 11th time for NZU to visit these shores in a history that dates back to 1936. Since 1996 NZU & Japan sides have been taking it in turns to tour resulting in yearly meetings.

NZU faced 3 very different sides this year with very similar results against the more senior Japan A & B sides that included a high number of fringe national players left out of the CB tour to South America. However, it was in the final game against Japan Unis that NZU were pushed the hardest with the lead changing several times & the result going down to the wire. If only Japanese sides could bottle or patent this kind of effort for future reference. It will be in NZ in 06 that the sides next meet. However, there is a rumour that the NZRU has proposed some changes to the way these NZU exchanges take place by limiting Japanese teams to U23 & having them tour NZ annually for 5 or 6 matches.

The Rumour Mill
IBM are again touring Sydney this year & enjoying some tough competition. John Salisbury who was at the Sydney Samoans v IBM game reports that the bigger, stronger Samoan team won 36-24 scoring 6 tries to 3. The Samoan side was drawn from players playing in both grade & Suburban Rugby.

Tim lane to replace outgoing Brian Smith at Ricoh?

On the Horizon

  • Japan v Korea (15 May 05, Seoul)
  • Sanix International High Schools tournament
  • Foreign players & yellow/red cards
  • Club profiles: Kubota, Ricoh etc.
  • RWC 2011 Japan
  • OS players & the quota