RiJ Vol.2 No.26
June 28, 2005
RiJ this week wraps-up the 8-Test international season for the CBs. An intense season in which the CBs ended up in the red with 3 wins & 5 losses. The win over a disappointing Romania was the best win, a few other Tests slipped through the fingers & losses to Argentina & Ireland were all but inevitable. And so another international season draws to a close. To refresh the memory of the reader, RiJ overviews each Test, looks at the coaching & the players & also the future. Asian Qualification for RWC 07 continues to be up-dated & then Rumour Mill looks at some of the gossip doing the rounds this week.
Enjoy the read.
CBs Season 2005 –
The 2005 international season consisted of 8 Tests played over about just as many weeks. Compared to the previous fractured season this year was far more concentrated & compact. It also created the environment for a consistent squad, allowing for injuries player rotation & positional experimentation. However, of the 8 Tests played Japan won 3 & lost 5 with 2 of the losses (against Uruguay & Canada) wins the CBs allowed to slip. Not exactly a glowing report card but has Japan developed & can this season be built upon? This & other issues will be ruminated upon over the next few weeks. Although RiJ has reported on all Tests, below is a brief overview of each game.
The one that got away. The first meeting between the 2 countries played away in Montevideo. The first Test of the season for the CBs in which 8 players in the match day XXII made heir debuts. Among the 8 was Tongan-born Christian Loamanu who became the youngest ever CB. The others were prop Hiroshi Takahashi, Australian-born lock Jamie Washington, NZ-born loose forward Hare Makiri, flanker Tomoaki Nakai, half Shota Goto & rising star Ayumu Goromaru, the fullback from Waseda Uni. After leading 15-5 at the break, Japan let the home side back into the Test to end up going down by 6 points in a game they were very much expected to win.
Things did not get much better in Buenos Aires the following Saturday. Although Japan managed to score 4 tries, the Pumas scored 9, with 6 of them in the second half & 3 of those in the last 10 mins. Argentina were missing the cream of their stars playing for European clubs, so this was very much an under strength home side, but also the opportunity for the next generation of Argentines to take their chances. The CBs were still in touch at half time with the score at 23-28, but the statistics for the second forty minutes did not make good in-flight reading on the long flight home for the coaching staff.
Back at home & it was time for the 2005 round of Asian Qualifications matches for RWC 07. Japan was grouped in Division 1 with Korea & HK. Japan made mince meat of HK running in 12 tries in total with 6 of them going to Daisuke Ohata. If only Campese could have played the likes of HK & Taiwan his record would have been in 3 figures. Yamaha hooker Masakazu Nakabayashi & centre Katoni Otukolo also made their debuts in this Test. Keiji Hirose was preferred at five-eighth & he potted 11 from 12 conversions together with 3 penalties for a total of 31 points for the match.
Played in Korea, the final score line somewhat flattered the CBs. Although Japan led 24-17 at the break the scores were locked at 31-all at the 70-minute mark. Two late tries to replacement flanker Phillip ORielly coming off the bench to make his debut along with last gasp try to Ohata made the final result look better in the history books. Korea is constantly a bugbear for Japanese sides & this game was typical.
Late May saw the 3rd Super Powers Cup, though the name was shortened to Super Cup for 2005. Canada, USA & Romania for the first time joined host Japan in this IRB backed tier two development tournament. In their first match, played under lights at the National Stadium in Tokyo, Japan beat Romania largely thanks to 2 smart tries from, you guessed it, Daisuke Ohata. Sweet revenge for the 25-10 defeat in Bucharest last November.
This win & Canada beating USA meant Japan & Canada faced off in a repeat of the final from last year. On that occasion Japan won 34-21, but this year the tables were turned with the Canadians victorious in a tight low scoring game. Ayumu Goromaru started at No15 for this first run-on Test & by France 2007 he should surely be a permanent fixture in this position. Another win there for the taking with Japan left to stew on their missed opportunities.
To the grand finale & highlight of the season. Ireland was missing 12 regular starters on Lions duty in NZ & even with home ground advantage the Irish were always going to be difficult opponents for the CBs. In the first of two Tests played in Osaka Ireland played basic international standard Rugby with 4 tries & 6 penalties. Nothing fancy & take the points when on offer. Solid Irish defence & dominance of the set pieces blunted the main attacking chances for Japan who was kept try less. Having Ohata in the sinbin for 10 mins did not help either. This Test also saw the Test debut of Toshiba centre & captain Teppei Tomioka.
The last Test of the season. Played in 30-degree heat & thick humidity Ireland brought a very different approach to this second Test of the series. They ran the ball, which resulted in 7 tries. Throughout the Test, Ireland did not even attempt one shot at penalty, such was the flow of their game. In return, Japan crossed the Irish line twice, both tires scored by none other than Ohata. Who else? Ohata is a class act & he is currently in the prime of his career. He has scored 57 Test tries in 52 Tests that puts him in second spot in the history books behind David Campese with 64 form 101 Tests. One more test against HK would just about do it, but that will have to wait till next year.
Current coach Mitsutake Hagimoto was originally appointed to the top job in April 2004 on a one-year contract. Subsequently, his contract was renewed until December 2005. With the completion of the 2005 international season & the second year for Hagimoto, the JRFU will set about evaluating the performances & results with further news surely to follow towards the end of the year. His results with the CBs in that initial year were as follows.
Winning the Super Powers Cup was the highlight of the season but the lowlight was the disastrous tour of Europe in November with devastating losses to Scotland & Wales. Yes, Wales went on to win the 6N in fine fashion, but the Scots only managed a lone win against Italy. Thus, in summing up the first 2 seasons of Hagimoto Japan, he has been in charge of 15 Tests for 5 wins, a draw & 9 losses. He has not exactly set the world alight & considerable debate continues as to whether he will be the coach to take Japan to France in 2 years time.
Perhaps as a result of the poor results in Europe last year, the coaching of the national side went off on a new tangent this year. That is to say, although Hagimoto was kept on & his contract renewed he has had some help this time round. Two French technical advisers were put on the books in the form of Jean-Pierre Ellissalde (forwards) & Edmond Jorda (backs). Much has been made of these appointments in the local media & the new Japanese love affair with the French style of playing Rugby. The philosophy behind it all is that French Rugby is better suited to the Japanese game rather than the antipodean take it up the middle crash ball approach that has been the model to date. So, for the time being it is sushi with b