RUGBY JERSEY – September 8, RWC 2023 begins

(Written by AZUL: September 29, 2023)

September 8, our second day in France, marked the opening day of RWC2023. We stayed in France from September 7 to 11, and would have loved to watch the opening match on September 8 (France vs. New Zealand) if we could get tickets in advance. However, they were not on sale on the ticket resale website. It is no wonder, since this is a very popular and favorable card along with the final and semi-final matches. However, I thought that Toulouse, one of the host cities of RWC 2023, should at least have a public viewing event, so I asked at a fan zone in the city, and was told that it would be held on this night.

The staff advised us to arrive two hours before kickoff.

The photo above shows the SERGE BLANCO store in Toulouse, where the French heroes of RWC 1987 now have their own fashion brand.

Before watching the opening match this evening, we went to visit Carcassonne, a World Heritage Site located near Toulouse. The tour leaves at 9:30 AM and returns at 5:30 PM.

We boarded the Carcassonne tour bus on a wide street about a 5-minute walk from our hotel. The trip to Carcassonne took about 2 hours. The price of this tour varied from about 60 euros for the round-trip bus fare and entrance ticket, which we used, to a more expensive 500 euros for a tour of Carcassonne with a personal guide. Personally, I was satisfied with the €60 tour.

In the morning, we arrived at our destination.

Oh, the old castle of Carcassonne came into view. Carcassonne, a World Heritage Site, is one of the largest fortresses in Europe, and the first fortification was built in the 3rd century BC.

The site where this fortress was built has long been a strategic point for transportation between the Iberian Peninsula and European countries, and in the Middle Ages, it served as a base for the crusades sent by the Pope.

After the border with Spain shifted to the west in the 17th century and the site lost its significance as a fortress, it declined and was abandoned in the 19th century.

However, the historical value of the site was later recognized and it was restored to its present form.

It is said to be the No. 2 most popular World Heritage site in France, following Mont Saint-Michel. The town surrounding the fortress also retains its medieval atmosphere, and it was a wonderful sight to see such a thing for a tour price of 60 euros.

The walls of this Carcassonne fortress are 3 km long and even double in length.

There are 52 towers within the fortress, and although we were not able to see all of them, we were amazed at the majesty of the towers even inside the fortress.

Before coming here, I thought I would have too much time on my hands, as I was told that the bus would leave at 11:30 a.m. at the bus stop by the fort and that the return bus would meet at 3:30 p.m. However, if I wanted to see every nook and cranny of this fort, from the outer to the inner walls, I would be a little short on time.

This building is the Basilique St-Nazaire, located inside the ramparts. The interior is a magnificent, faithfully reconstructed medieval site.

Since we had to have lunch and buy souvenirs in the four hours allotted to us, we gave up trying to go around the entire perimeter. If you really want to enjoy this facility to the fullest, you may stay overnight at the hotel inside the facility.

At almost 1:00 p.m., we finally finished visiting the tower, so we went to the restaurant inside the facility to have a meal. I ordered the following

*Caesar salad

*Cheese platter

*Cassoulet (a local dish of Occitanie)

*Red wine

The photo above is the cheese platter. I forgot to take a picture of the cassoulet. The cassoulet was indeed delicious, but the quantity was so large that I was the only one who finished it in my group.

(The basic ingredients are white beans, pork, duck, and sausage. It is very tasty, as long as you don’t make a mistake with the quantity. Many of the tourists around us also ordered cassoulet.

It is often said about famous tourist attractions that “don’t die without seeing Carcassonne”.

*Souvenirs I bought in France 1*

This is a scarf and clasp I bought at a store in Carcassonne. I bought the one with the Crusader emblem on the right for 49 euros.

** Rugby goods I bought in France, part 3 **

I bought these rugby goods at a store in Carcassonne. I fell in love with the design at first sight and bought it. The brand name “RUCK FIELD” is a French brand. Sebastian CHABAL on the box is a player who played as a lock for France in RWC 2007. He is said to have broken a player of the opposing team’s arm with a single shot by making a tremendous tackle. The price was reasonable at 60 euros, but the watch is water resistant to 10 atmospheres, tough and will last for a long time.

After ending our tour of Carcassonne on time, we returned to Toulouse. We were 15 minutes past the scheduled time, but since we had checked the venue for the public viewing the day before, we arrived one hour before kickoff.

The venue was a special site set up in the vicinity of Pont Neuf, a famous tourist attraction. The photo shows the Garonne River, which flows through the city. By the time we arrived, there were quite a few spectators. To our surprise, the security check was so strict that all the beverages we brought in our backpacks had to be disposed of on the spot. This check was conducted by police officers, not volunteer staff, and their faces were frightening. When we arrived, there were about 10,000 people in the area.

We set up in this area. At this point (around 18:00), it was still empty, but by the end of the day, over 40,000 spectators had gathered. The French people’s expectations for their first RWC victory were evident.

Before the games began, everyone was talking peacefully among friends. Things gradually heated up around the time of the opening ceremony.

Many people gathered, and remembering the crushing deaths that occurred in Korea, I felt in danger, so we moved from the center part of the event to the side of the river.

I was surprised by the speech of the guest of honor at the opening ceremony. When President Macron started to speak, there was a loud booing at the stadium in Paris and at the venue here. In a sense, it can be said that the public has a strong interest in their domestic politics.

The opening match of this tournament is France vs. New Zealand, a strong team that has played in several finals in the past.

Past opening card results, as researched, are as follows

RWC 1987: NZ vs Italy ~70-6

RWC1991: England vs NZ ~ 12-18

RWC1995: South Africa vs Australia ~ 27-18

RWC1999: Wales vs Argentina ~ 23-18

RWC2003: Australia vs Argentina~ 24-8

RWC2007: France vs Argentina~ 12-17

RWC2011: NZ vs Tonga~ 41-10

RWC2015: England vs Fiji ~ 35-11

RWC2019: Japan vs Russia – 30-10

(In the matchup combinations in the data above, the left side indicates the host nation.)

The opening match of RWC2023 will be between the top-ranked nations in the world ranking, and the French nation will be on a high from September 8.

The starting members lineup for the opening match is as follows.

First, the All Blacks, representing New Zealand in the Visitor Team.

All Blacks
No.NameheightweightageNZ Caps
1Ethan de GROOT190cm122kg2517
2Codie TAYLOR183cm108kg3280
3Nepo LAULALA184cm116kg3150
4Samuel WHITELOCK202cm117kg34146
5Scott BARRETT197cm112kg2962
6Tupou VA’AI198cm118kg2322
7Dalton PAPAL’I193cm113kg2526
8Ardie SAVEA190m99kg2975
9Aaron SMITH171m83kg34119
10Richie MO’UNGA176cm83kg2949
11Mark TELEA186cm94kg265
12Anton LIENERT-BROWN185cm96kg2863
13Rieko IOANE189cm103kg2663
14Will JORDAN188cm94kg2525
15Beauden BARRETT187cm91kg32116

The All Blacks have never lost a qualifying pool match in the RWC, and are coming into RWC 2023 on a high condition after winning the Southern Hemisphere RWC just prior to the RWC.

The image above is a reflection of the front screen from where we were sitting. At this point, the crowd was still small and we were able to sit and watch the game.

The starting lineup for the French national team, Les Bleus, who will be the home team for the opening match, is as follows.

No.NameheightweightageFrance Caps
1Reda Wardi185cm110kg2410
2Julien MARCHAND181cm110kg2832
3Uini ATONIO196cm145kg3354
4Cameron WOKI196cm109kg2423
5Thibaud FLAMENT203cm116kg2620
6Francois CROS190cm111kg2935
7Charles OLLIVON199cm114kg3023
8Gregory ALDRITT191m113kg2643
9Antoine DUPONT174m85kg2650
10 Matthieu JALIBERT184cm84kg2826
11Gaban VILIERE180cm88kg2715
12 Yoram MOEFANA182cm97kg2319
13Gael FICKOU190cm100kg2982
14Damian PENAUD189cm96kg2645
15Thomas RAMOS178cm87kg2828

Can the French Rugby team, the host nation of RWC 2023, break the All Blacks’ undefeated record in the qualifying pool?

The pre-match predictions were slightly in favor of the All Blacks. However, the expectations of the home country for the French national team this time around are high. In the previous RWC 2019, the French national team received dismal reviews. Many media outlets in the home country were said to have not booked hotels for coverage during the final tournament, assuming that the French national team would be eliminated in the qualifying pool. The team then went on to strengthen for the RWC 2023 to be held in their hometown, and was ranked No. 4 in the world.

If you compare the two photos above, you can see that the crowd was growing quickly at the venue in Toulouse.

Then, the match started.

First half:

It was All Blacks who scored the first goal. In 2 minute of the first half, a kick pass from FB BARRETT was held by young WTB TELEA, and he scored a try easily. On the other hand, Les Bleus also drew a foul on All Blacks in enemy territory, and FB RAMOS scored PGs in the 5th, 20th, and 29th minutes of the first half, giving Les Bleus a one-point lead, 9-8.

At the end of the first half, it was completely nighttime. The Public Viewing venue in Toulouse was already so packed that it was impossible to watch the game without standing. At this point, no new visitors were allowed to enter.

The second half began.

Second Half:

3 minutes into the second half, the All Blacks scored another try. The try was scored by WTB TELEA, who also scored the first try in the first half.

Les Blues scored in small increments, but it was not until the 33rd minute of the second half that Les Blue

3 minutes into the second half, the All Blacks scored another try. The try was scored by WTB TELEA, who also scored the first try in the first half.

The game was a tense affair with Les Blues leading by 6 points until the 33rd minute of the second half, when Les Blues scored two more tries. For the French people, this was a great way to end the opening match of the RWC 2023.

After the opening match, if both teams win all their subsequent matches, they will play each other again in the final. Which team will advance to the finals? The final will be held on October 28.


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine


RUGBY JERSEY – Now to France!

(Written by AZUL: September 18, 2023)

Finally, I am leaving for the RWC2023 tour. My tour this time was a one-week tour, departing on September 6 and returning on September 12. I was so excited that I could not sleep well the day before.

On September 6, I left my house in Hachioji City around 9:00 a.m. and took the Keisei Skyliner from Nippori Station in the Tokyo metropolitan area to Narita Airport.

This is a transfer from the JR line to the Keisei line. There are two options to get to Narita Airport, the Narita Express and the Keisei Skyliner, but I chose the Skyliner because it has more arrivals and departures and is less expensive.

The Skyliner can be booked in advance, but since it was during the daytime on a weekday, I was able to board without a reservation. The one-way fare from Nippori to Narita Airport Terminal 2 was about 2,500 yen.

The time required is about 40 minutes. The boarding rate was about 50%. It was empty. We arrived at Narita Airport at exactly 12:00 pm.

The departure time was 5:15 p.m., so I had enough time to go to the check-in counter of Cathay Pacific to complete the procedures.

However, the (first) accident occurred here. Our flight was to take the route Narita→Hong Kong→Paris→Toulouse, but our departure flight was delayed and our flight to Hong Kong was delayed by one hour, departing at 18:45. According to our schedule, we had less than two hours to connect to the flight to Paris, so we might not be able to connect. Worst case scenario, we would have to wait a day in Hong Kong. Well, this kind of accident is always a part of airplane tours, but I was a little disappointed when it happened from the beginning.

Since we are going through Hong Kong, I bought some goods of Hong Kong origin. 2023 is the 50th anniversary of the death of Bruce Lee, the movie star who was born in Hong Kong.

Bruce Lee commemorative goods 1: T-shirt A:

A: A T-shirt starring Bruce Lee, who starred in the 1970’s worldwide hit movie “Enter the dragon,” was made at the young age of 32.

In 2023, the 50th anniversary of Bruce Lee’s death, a commemorative product was released, and I bought it at Amazon for 2,300 yen.

Bruce Lee commemorative goods 2 T-shirt B:

Bruce Lee is known for his double nunchucks. I will never forget the scene in the movie “Way of the Dragon” where Bruce Lee uses two nunchucks in all directions to knock down his enemies. I bought a pair of nunchucks made of urethane for practice. They are soft, so they don’t hurt too much when they hit me. I practice with them every day while watching videos. It’s only been two weeks, but I bought them at Yahoo Shopping for 2,500 yen.

Finally, our plane arrived at 6:00 p.m. This Cathay Pacific plane was the first one we had flown on.

The Cathay Pacific flight left Narita Airport around 19:00 and arrived in Hong Kong at 23:00. The time difference with Hong Kong is 1 hour, so the flight took 5 hours. There were many people connecting to Paris, so the airport staff led us on a short run to make the connection.

As a result, the connecting time in Hong Kong was less than 30 minutes, and we were able to board a flight to Paris. The flight to Paris departed from Hong Kong with a 30-minute delay.

On the plane, I was reading a special magazine on RWC2023 that had just been released to pass the time.

There are only two days left until the opening of RWC2023.

After a 14-hour flight from Hong Kong to Paris by Cathay Pacific, I finally arrived at Paris CDG airport. The date was 9/7 at this point.

Since France adopts daylight saving time, it is one hour earlier than Japan, and it is early in the morning when the sun is beginning to shine. Since this was my first time to land in Europe, I was a little impressed.

I could see RWC2023 billboards all over the airport. However, the airport staff did not understand me when I said “World Cup,” and I had to say “coupe de monde” to be understood. Well, it is a French-speaking country, of course.

I arrived at the airport at 7:00 a.m. and went through the immigration formalities easily in about 15 minutes, but I had to wait for 5 hours at the airport because my domestic flight to Toulouse was scheduled to depart at 12:00 p.m. If I had 5 hours, I could have taken the TGV from Paris to Toulouse, and it was the day before the opening of RWC 2023. So, I saw many supporters wearing uniforms of each country in the airport.

While I was waiting, I had breakfast at a coffee shop in the airport. Cheesecake and cafe au lait. The price was about 4 euros. I did not feel that this store was so expensive, but prices in France are higher than in Japan. As an example, a 500 ml bottle of mineral water costs less than 1 euro in Japan, but in France, it costs 3 euros.

While I was waiting for my connecting flight, I found some RWC2023 goods at a store in the airport and bought them without a second thought.

** Rugby goods I bought in France, part 1 **

It was a RWC2023 commemorative cap, a standard item for rugby fans. 35 euros. The price was 35 euros. The price was the same as that of the Japan tournament.

And while I was walking around the airport, this store caught my eye.

Yes, macaroons. My daughter had asked me to make sure to buy her the most expensive macarons as a souvenir from France, so I bought one and tasted it. They were delicious, but I was surprised at the high price of such a small pastry, which cost 4 euros each. If I buy a box (one dozen), which my daughter has asked me to do, it will cost 48 euros. We decided to buy it just before we boarded the plane back home.

At 12:00 local time, the French domestic flight to Toulouse finally departed.

No, it was crowded. Among the passengers were supporters wearing uniforms of Chile, Japan’s opponent. I felt the match was getting closer and I was happy.

From Paris CDG airport to Toulouse-Blagnac airport took 70 minutes. Since I had been on the plane for 14 hours before that, I felt that I arrived at Toulouse in a flash. However, it is 25 hours from Narita Airport to here, so it is quite a long trip.

And when I went to the counter to pick up my luggage, my luggage flowed safely. Before departure, I was thankful to the airport staff because I thought my luggage would be delayed for several days since I had two connecting flights and furthermore, the connection from Hong Kong to Paris was made in a great hurry.

Before departure, we put about 20 blue stickers on the trunk to identify it.

From here, we took the airport bus to the center of Toulouse. The fare was 9 euros and it took about 20 minutes.

Oh, here we are at last, to Toulouse. The picture above is Mataviot station. From here to our hotel was a 7-8 minute walk.

In front of the station, there was a monument for RWC2023. We stayed at the Hotel Victor-Hugo. It was reasonably priced, located in the center of town, and very convenient for dining, walking, etc. I would like to stay there again next time I visit Toulouse.

I was so greedy and had so many things planned for this tour that I spent the first day sightseeing by bus in the city without time to recover from jet lag.

The city bus tour of Toulouse takes about 70 minutes. The bus tour runs twice a day. We took the 16:30 departure. There was a radio with Japanese commentary, so we could understand the contents well. The fare was 9 euros. Participating in a city tour like this on the first day of the tour saves time later on, as you can get all the necessary information as soon as possible.

In Toulouse, the Japanese national team has set up a base camp and will play two matches here.

9/10 vs Chile

9/28 vs Samoa

After the city tour, we took a walk around Toulouse.

Toulouse is the fourth largest city in France, located in southwestern France. With a population of approximately 470,000, it is about the same size in population as Hachioji City in Tokyo, where I live.

It is home to Airbus, a world-renowned aircraft manufacturer. Also, walking around the city, you will see a very large and lively population of young people. There are many universities in Toulouse, and it is said that about 25% of the total population are university students.

This is a typical French cobblestone street with a European feel. As I was walking here, I was a little put off by the model-like beauties strutting from in front of me and behind me.

This area is also the most active rugby area in France and is home to Stade Toulousan, a prestigious French professional rugby team. Antoine Dupont, the captain of the French national team, is also a member of this club.

** Rugby goods I bought in France, No.2  **

I bought this backpack with the club crest at Stade Toulousan in Toulouse. I liked it at first sight and bought it. The price was 49 euros. The price was almost the same compared to similar goods in Japan.

** How to participate in the RWC tour  **

After watching the RWC on site for two consecutive tournaments in 2019 and 2023, what I used to think of as a “tour for rich people” became something closer to home when I actually went myself.

1. Obtaining tickets

The first hurdle is the ticket. At the time of the simultaneous sales, I waited for about two hours late at night and was finally able to access the website, but still could not purchase the ticket I wanted. The site I accessed at that time was in French, and I could not understand the meaning well, so I could not put the tickets in the shopping cart and could not make the payment.

I gave up on going on the tour at this point.

I decided to go on the tour this time because the tickets were available a year ago through the Asahi Beer sweepstakes.

The next convention will be in Australia, so the purchase site will be in English, so I think we can make it work.

The RWC2023 ticket resale site will also be in English, so it was easy to purchase, but it will not be available until one month before the start of the tournament.

2. Tour costs

Travel costs are more expensive if you do not get tickets in advance. This time, I arranged round-trip airfare and hotel reservations (4 nights) by myself, and the cost was only 300,000 yen. A tour arranged by a major Japanese travel agency would have cost twice as much.

3. Fundraising

When I go to watch the RWC, I feel that in Japan, it is a tour for adults who have reached a certain age, but overseas, people come to the stadium with their families, including their own children. Overseas fans seem to look forward to going on these tours every time.

In order to enjoy these tours, you need to plan ahead and save your money. In my case, I planned to save 500 yen (about 3 euros) per day to attend the next tour after RWC 2019 is over. since RWC is held every four years, I can prepare 730,500 yen (4,383 euros) over four years (= 1461 days). With this amount of money, you can make a trip of about 2 weeks if you work it out.

In the next issue, I will report on the RWC2023 tour in France after the second day.


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine


RUGBY JERSEY – The Road to RWC 2023

(Written by AZUL: August 20, 2023)

Finally, RWC2023 will be held in France starting September 8, 2023.

At first, I thought I would be watching the games on TV at home in Japan, but when I entered a sweepstakes sponsored by Asahi Beer, I was lucky enough to win tickets to the RWC2023 match between Japan and Chile in October 2022, and I will be going to France.

I was delighted to win, but in the end, I only get one ticket for one match in the sweepstakes. The price is about 20,000 yen for two people, so about 40,000 yen.

And the tour for winners of the match tickets prepared by a travel agency, shown in the picture above, is absurdly expensive. Without tickets, they arrive in France two days before the match, stay three nights, and come back, but it costs about 600,000 yen. Too expensive for a ticket. And I checked by myself. If I booked the airline ticket and hotel (4 nights) by myself, it cost only 300,000 yen. Hey, travel agencies must be making too much money.

This time, I will stay in Toulouse, which is located in the south of France. It is not shown on the map above, but it is near Montpellier.

The photo above is of the center of Toulouse. The Japanese national team’s camp site will also be set up in Toulouse, and my expectations are high.

When I won the ticket for 2022, I was worried that I would not be able to go to France because of the uncertainty about the new Corona response, but I am glad that the situation has improved.

The availability of tickets for RWC2023 improved dramatically in this August.

Until July 2023, tickets for RWC2023 were almost nonexistent on the resale market, but as of August 10, tickets for most matches are available at fixed prices. If I had known this was going to happen, I would not have had to pay two to three times the normal price for an expensive tour.

I will be going on this tour to France with a friend, and since we have some time left in our schedule, we have decided to watch one more game on September 10. The other match is England vs. Argentina. The venue is Marseille.

The ticket I bought is a Category 1 ticket for England vs. Argentina. The price was 300 euros per ticket. I looked for a hotel in Marseille, but the price was seven times higher than a week ago, so I decided to give up my stay in Marseille and take an express bus back to Toulouse at night.

Let us check the current world ranking of rugby by country.

World Ranking2023.9.2
2South Africa
4New Zealand

Compared to the previous tournament, the gap between the top and the bottom seems to have narrowed. This raises expectations that we will see many more heated games when the tournament begins.

The preliminary pool pairings for this year’s RWC2023 are as follows

Pool A:

New Zealand (4th)

France (3rd)

Italy (13th)

Uruguay (17th)

Namibia (21st)

Pool B:

South Africa (2nd)

Ireland (1st)

Scotland (5th)

Tonga (15th)

Romania (19th)

Pool C:

Wales (10th)

Australia (9th)

Fiji (7th)

Georgia (11th)

Portugal (16th)

Pool D:

England (8th)

Japan (14th)

Argentina (6th)

Samoa (12th)

Chile (22nd)

Let’s take a look at the participating countries in Pool D, the qualifying round to which the Japanese team will belong.

First, let us introduce the participating countries.

England (World Ranking=8th):

The runner-up of the last RWC, England has one championship and three runner-up finishes in the RWC, a record befitting the home country of rugby. However, even such a powerful nation has suffered a bitter defeat in the qualifying pool of the RWC 2015, which was held in their home country. This year’s national team, as indicated by its current world ranking, has been a lost cause. In the last test match, the team suffered its first ever defeat against Fiji. It also hurts too much that the team’s mainstays, SO Farell and No.8 Vunipola, were shown red cards in the matches just before the start of RWC2023, and are unable to play in the first and second RWC2023 matches against Argentina and Japan, respectively.

Argentina (World Ranking #6):

Nicknamed Los Pumas, Argentina is a strong team representing South America, and has made the most progress in the RWC in recent years, finishing 3rd in 2007 and 4th in 2015. They are expected to finish first in Pool D this time as well, having defeated a number of top-ranked teams in their previous test matches. Their first match against England will be the most difficult of Pool D.

Japan (World Ranking: 14th):

Japan made a breakthrough at the last RWC 2019, finishing in the top eight, and is expected to make another leap forward at RWC 2023, but they have lost their last six test matches, winning one and losing five, and have finally fallen to 14th in the world rankings. Hopefully, Japan’s performance in the previous tournament was also dismal, as the team’s last test match was a disaster. In other words, Japan’s national team is strong in the competition, but their performance is not good enough. The only way to change this reputation is to achieve a great result in the real tournament.

SAMOA (12th in the world ranking):

This team has made a dramatic leap forward this season, benefiting from the recent revision of the World Rugby National Team rules and their success in strengthening through participation in Super Rugby, the world’s strongest league. In their most recent test match, they defeated Japan’s national team, and then went on to play Ireland, ranked No. 1 in the world, with a close score, albeit with a loss. With their best finish in recent years, it would not be surprising to see them reach their first final tournament since 1995.

Chili (World Ranking: 22nd)

Chili is making its first appearance in this year’s tournament, having qualified for the RWC 2023 qualifiers by defeating North American powerhouses United States and Canada. The team, nicknamed Los Condores, will be joined in the tournament by Argentina and Uruguay, in addition to Chile, and is expected to be a breakthrough for rugby in South America. What kind of rugby will they show us?

Let’s get ready for the RWC2023 France!


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine


RUGBY JERSEY – Japan national rugby team training match


(Written by AZUL: August 16, 2023)

This was the fifth match of the Japan national rugby team’s training programme before the start of the RWC 2023 in France. The opponents for this match were the powerful FIJI national team, who are ranked 10th in the world. The Japanese national team is currently ranked 14th in the world, so this was a match against a superior team.

The Japanese national team’s results so far this season were as follows

Round 1 (8 July) – VS ALL BLACKS XV: 6-38 ●

Round 2 (15 Jul) – VS ALL BLACKS XV: 27-41 ●

Round 3 (22 July) – VS SAMOA: 22-24 ●

Round 4 (29 July) – VS TONGA: 21-16 ○

The Japanese national team’s record so far has been poor, with one win and three losses. Finally, in the fifth round, the Japanese team got their first win over the Tongan team. Can the Japanese national team win their final domestic match?

A packed house of 22,137 spectators gathered at the Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground to cheer on the Japan national team. The daytime temperature was a killer 35°C, but it was a night game. Nevertheless, by kick-off the temperature had dropped to 28°C, making it somewhat more comfortable for the spectators.

Before the match, the national team players who were not playing in the day’s game held a rugby class at the venue for children selected by lottery as a fan service.

The Test match ceremony was held before the day’s kick-off.

Following the national anthems of the two opposing nations, a pre-match War Cry, typical of the Pacific nations in the Southern Hemisphere, was performed – in Fiji’s case, CIBI.

It really set the mood before the decisive battle.

Here is the latest information on the two teams that played on the day.

First of all, let me introduce the Visitor Team, the Fiji national team.

The FIJI team has achieved top 8 results in two RWC tournaments, RWC 1987 and RWC 2007. The FIJI team has also won the world’s highest number of 7-a-side rugby championships, including the Olympic Games. The Fijian Dodgers are known for their transformational style of play, which has earned them the nickname ‘Fijian Magic’, with all players, including the FWs, making decisive runs to enthrall spectators, both friend and foe alike.

From 2022, Fiji will compete in Super Rugby, the world’s strongest league, as Fijian Doulua, giving Fiji players the opportunity to practise at a high level and raise the level of their national team’s ability.

Today’s starting line-up is as follows.

No.NameheightweightageFiji Caps
1ERONI MAWI185cm130kg2721
2SAMUEL MATAVESI188cm110kg3123
3LUKE TAGI181cm139kg265
4ALBERT TUISUE188cm112kg3016
5TEMO MAYANAVANUA196cm120kg259
8MELI DERENALAGI193m110kg242
10BEN VOLAVOLA191cm95kg3244
12VILIMONI BOTITU180cm97kg258
13WAISEA NAYACALEVU194cm105kg3337
14JIUTA WAINIQOLO186cm90kg245
15SIRELI MAQALA165cm86kg232

** Player to watch **

BEN VOLAVOLA. 191 cm, 95 kg, 32 years old. Position = SO. has been in command of the Fiji national team for three consecutive World Cups, RWC 2015, 2019 and 2023. His long-range kicking from his height is a powerful weapon for the Fiji team. He is also an excellent offensive and defensive player with long passes, big steps, hard tackles and offload passes using his size to his advantage.

Next, we would like to update you on the Japan national team Brave Blossoms.

Although the team has been losing in training matches since July, they have been steadily strengthening on the defensive side of the field. However, there are few opportunities to see the attack using the whole ground, which is a weapon of the Japan national team. Also, several of the main players have been injured and their recovery

Today’s starting line-up is as follows.

Brave Blossoms
No.NameheightweightageJapan Caps
1Keita INAGAKI186cm116kg3348
2Atsushi SAKATE180cm104kg3036
3Asaeli Ai VALU187cm115kg3425
4James MOORE195cm110kg3016
5Amato FAKATAVA195cm118kg283
6Jack CORNELSEN195cm110kg2815
7Pieter LABUSCHAGNE189cm106kg3416
8Kazuki HIMENO187cm108kg2828
9Naoto SAITO165cm73kg2614
10Rikiya MATSUDA181cm92kg2932
11Jone NAIKABULA177cm95kg293
12Tomoki OSADA179cm90kg233
13Dylan RILEY187cm102kg2613
14Semisi MASIREWA181cm93kg314
15Kotaro MATSUSHIMA178cm88kg3050

** Player to watch **

Jone NAIKABULA. 177 cm, 95 kg, 29 years old. Position = WTB. team = Toshiba Brave Lupas. from Fiji. A new addition to the national team this season, he was selected for the 7-man Japan national team for the Tokyo Olympics and is an outstanding try-getter and decisive player. He has also saved the team from danger on numerous occasions as a last resort when opponents have slipped behind their defensive nets. Having been used in consecutive starts for Japan, he is gradually fitting into the Japan team and is expected to play more and more for RWC 2023.

Now, let the match begin. The kick-off time for the day was 19:16.

Fiji, in past RWC matches, have always gone all out from the start of the game and attacked, so for Japan team the key to the game will be how far they can be held back.

4 minutes into the first half:

Japan kicked off to start the game. The kicker is WTB MASIREWA, as both WTBs of the Japanese national team are from Fiji and are thought to have strong feelings for their home country for this match.

After the kick-off, the Japanese team pushed hard to get in front of the opposition in-goal, but the high defensive ability of Fiji’s players prevented them from scoring a try. In a densely contested battle, Fiji team won the ball back and CTB NAYACALEVU got behind the Japanese defence and, using his running ability, ran through the enemy line to score the first try. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 0-7.

7 minutes into the first half:

During an attack by the Fiji team, Japan’s flanker LABUSCHAGNE commits an infringement by hitting an opponent head first and is sent off with a red card. This meant that the national team had to play with 14 players until the end of the game, one less than their opponents, for the first seven minutes of the first half. LABUSCHAGNE will also be suspended for the next three matches, meaning they will not make it to RWC 2023 and could be left out of the final squad.

The Japanese national team has played Samoa and Tonga so far, and while these two teams play hard contact with their players’ physicality, Fiji, also an island nation in the southern hemisphere, played a completely different style of rugby. The Fiji team played a style of rugby where they didn’t crowd the field, but formed a quick back line, and everyone ran and connected.

And while Fiji used to be poor at set plays, they now outplayed the Japanese teams. That is, they pushed and won in the scrums and won the ball quickly in dense battles. This is the result of their participation in Super Rugby.

17 minutes into the first half:

From a scrum in front of the enemy in-goal, the Fiji team’s FWs repeatedly attacked the side and scored a try in the middle right of the enemy in-goal in the fifth phase. In contrast to the Japanese team’s inability to break Fiji’s day defence no matter how many times they tried, the Fiji’s FWs also showed their power over the Japanese team. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 0-14.

38 minutes into the first half:

So far in this match, the Japanese team had not shown much in attack. Furthermore, they were clearly outclassed in set-piece play, especially in the scrums. Fiji had a chance to set up their own scrum in front of the opposition in-goal, which they pushed forward and SH KURUVOLI scored a try on the right side of the goal post. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 0-21.

The first half ended with this score. The Japanese team had little to show for their efforts in this match, as Fiji’s strength was evident. Can the Japanese team stop Fiji’s momentum in the second half?

Let’s start the second half.

16 minutes into the second half:

As the Japanese team approached the enemy’s in-goal, Fiji won the ball back and SO VOLAVOLA kicked a very long kick from in front of their own in-goal, which went all the way into the enemy’s in-goal. This happened twice more and the Japanese FWs became increasingly fatigued.

Just as Fiji team were on the verge of scoring a try, the Japanese team managed to hold them off and kicked back into enemy territory, but when Fiji lost possession, the Fiji team deployed from there and substitute SH ROMANIE broke through the Japanese defensive line to score a try at full stretch under the enemy goalposts. The try was scored.

The atmosphere was now such that the Fiji team’s momentum was unstoppable. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 0-28.

31 minutes into the second half:

The Japanese team, in a poor position, deployed from deep in their own half, and CTB OSADA took possession of the ball and ran nearly 70 metres on his own through Fiji’s defensive line, closing in on the opposition in-goal. However, he was caught out and stopped by the Fiji team’s defence player. However, CTB OSADA’s fierce run gave the Japanese team momentum and after this play, from a scrum on their own ball, WTB NAIKABULA received the ball and broke through Fiji’s defence to score a try in the middle on the left. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 7-28.

37 minutes into the second half:

The Japanese team, perhaps buoyed by their earlier try, launched a series of attacks from deep in their own half towards the end of the match. Once intercepted by Fiji’s WTB WAINIQOLO, it looked as if a try had been scored, but the try was cancelled because the Fiji team had committed an infringement before the play. After a reorganisation, the Japanese team gradually closed in on the enemy in-goal with a series of attacks, culminating in WTB MASIREWA scoring a try in the left corner of the enemy’s in-goal. The conversion goal after the try failed. The score was 12-28.

41 minutes into the second half:

The Japanese team launched an attack from the centre scrum, but a passing error gave the right of attack to the Fiji team. The horn sounded for the last play, but the Fiji team attacked in quick succession, trying to score a try, and broke through the Japanese defensive line. A converted goal after the try was also successful, making the score 12-35. The match ended here.

The Japanese national team showed their mettle towards the end of the match, but the strength of the Fiji team left a lasting impression. The current Fiji team has a good chance of kicking off the powers at RWC 2023 and making it to the final tournament.

In contrast, the Japanese team’s urgent task is to improve the level of coordination in their attack.


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine


RUGBY JERSEY – Japan national rugby team training match


(Written by AZUL: July 31, 2023)

I went to see the third match of the Rugby Japan national team’s RWC 2023 pre-tournament fixtures.

The scores of the training matches so far were as follows

Round 1 (8 Jul) – VS ALL BLACKS XV: 6-38 ●

Round 2 (15 Jul) – VS ALL BLACKS XV: 27-41 ●

The third match will be played on 22 July against the Samoan national rugby team. The venue was Sapporo Dome in Sapporo, Hokkaido.

I flew from Tokyo Haneda Airport on the morning of the match and took the 9:30 flight to Sapporo.

The flight I boarded that day was full and there were many people wearing the Japan national team jersey. It was indeed a World Cup year, and the cheering enthusiasm of the supporters was gradually increasing. The flight took 90 minutes and I arrived safely at New Chitose Airport.

The temperature there was a pleasant 29°C, as it is more than 1,000 km north of Tokyo. After a 40-minute train ride from New Chitose Airport, I arrived at Sapporo Station, where we had a meal, and then took the underground railway to Sapporo Dome. The journey from Sapporo took about 30 minutes.

The Sapporo Dome is an indoor stadium and air-conditioned, making it comfortable for both players and spectators. If the games were played outdoors during the daytime in mid-summer, the temperature would be close to 40 degrees Celsius, which would be very difficult. Well, the match would not be conducted in such conditions.

The Sapporo Dome was also used as the venue for RWC 2019, with two matches taking place – FIJI vs Australia and England vs TONGA.

My seats on the day were the front row behind the goal and the cheapest seats in Category 4, but I felt a bit better off in the front row.

So, here’s an update on the two teams playing on the day.

First, let’s look at the visiting team, the Samoan National Team (=MANU SAMOA).

The Samoan national team is a strong team, having reached the RWC finals twice before, in the 1990s, the Samoan national team was so strong that the Japanese national team was no match for them, during which time the Japanese national team suffered heavy defeats. The total so far is Samoa’s 11 wins and 5 losses. However, in the last two tournaments, Japan was able to deliver victories with relative ease as the Samoan team, which had a weak economic base, was not strengthened. However, in 2023, the rules of international rugby changed and players who have represented other countries in the past can now represent their home country if they have not represented their first country in a competitive match for 36 months. Furthermore, a team of Samoan and Tongan players has been formed in the SUPER RUGBY, the world’s premier league, to gain experience in high-intensity matches. This will provide a strengthening structure for Samoa’s players, who are highly qualified by nature, and create a team that could be the typhoon of the RWC 2023.

Today’s starting line-up is as follows.

No.NameheightweightageSAMOA Caps
1Jordan Lay185cm117kg3024
2Luteru Tolai180cm120kg251
3Paul Alo-Emile180cm129kg3113
4Brian Alainuuese201cm137kg292
5Michael Curry195cm112kg292
6Taleni Seu198cm118kg293
7Alamanda Motuga180cm110kg283
8Sootala FAASOO193m133kg281
9Jonathan Taumateine181m88kg267
10Christian Lealiifano179cm92kg351(+Australia 26cap)
11Tumua Manu183cm97kg304
12Duncan Paiaaua183cm94kg282
13Ulupano Junior Seuteni188cm103kg349
14Neria Fomai179cm100kg317
15Danny Toala179cm100kg246

** Player to watch **.

Christian Lealiifano. 179 cm, 92 kg, 35 years old. Position = SO.

This is his first cap for Samoa, but he boasts 26 caps for Australia; he also played at RWC 2019 and is expected to have a lot to do with his wealth of experience as a commanding presence who will be responsible for calming the current young national team

Next is an update on the home team, the national team (i.e. Brave Blossoms). The Japanese national team has lost two consecutive training matches and is hoping to get its first win soon. The first match was a complete defeat with no tries scored, but in the second match, although they lost, they put on a couple of attacking displays. Samoa and Japan are in the same qualifying pool and neither side will want to lose. A heated battle is expected.

The starting line-up for the day was as follows.

JAPAN(Brave Blossoms)
No.NameheightweightageJapan Caps
1Keita INAGAKI186cm116kg3345
2Atsushi SAKATE180cm104kg3033
3Jiwon GU183cm118kg2921
4James MOORE195cm110kg3013
5Amato FAKATAVA195cm118kg281
6Jack CORNELSEN195cm110kg2812
7Kazuki HIMENO187cm108kg2825
8Michael LEITCH189cm113kg3478
9Yutaka NAGARE166cm75kg3030
10Seungsin LEE176cm85kg226
11Jone NAIKABULA177cm95kg291
12Shogo NAKANO186cm98kg266
13Dylan RILEY187cm102kg2610
14Kotaro MATSUSHIMA178cm88kg3047
15Ryohei YAMANAKA188cm98kg3527

** Player to watch **.

Seungshin LEE. 176 cm, 85 kg, 22 years old. Position = SO. cap for Japan = 6. Team: KOBELCO Steelers. a commanding presence in Japan’s national team since last year. He is an all-round player with few faults. The only drawback he has is his small stature. Even though he lacks the explosive speed and ultra-long kicks that make him a standout weapon, he is not lacking in game-making ability as a SO and has shown no fluctuations in form. The competition for places with Matsuda is fierce.

Prior to the match, as this is an official Test match,

Her Imperial Highness Princess Akiko, Honorary President of Japan Rugby Reinforcement, gave a pep talk to both teams.

Immediately before kick-off, a War Cry, typical of southern hemisphere rugby teams, was performed. In Samoa, the official name is Siva Tau.

Now for the start of the first half. Kick-off on this occasion was 14:50 and the stadium attendance was 22,063.

6 minutes into the first half:

Samoa kicked off and the game started. The Samoan players, especially the FW players, are one size bigger than the Japanese. The team list shows that on average, the FWs are 10 kg heavier than their Japanese counterparts. The sense of pressure was not half bad. For a while, Samoa advanced the game in the Japanese camp, but in the right corner, Japan’s CTB RILEY kicked the ball deep into the enemy camp.

From a scrum in front of the enemy in-goal on the right edge of the field, the Japanese team attacked from their own scrum with a series of side attacks by the FWs. Gradually, they closed in on the enemy in-goal and finally, Japan’s lock FAKATAVA scored a try at the left edge of the goal posts. The first point was scored by Japan. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 7-0.

17 minutes into the first half:

While the Japanese team was attacking deep in enemy territory, Samoan flanker SEU was fouled for a high tackle and was temporarily sent off. This was the first foul ejection of this match.The match, which from the outset looked like a fierce meat-and-potatoes battle between the FWs, was the first to be penalised with an exit.

19 minutes into the first half:

The Japan team formed a maul near the opposition in-goal and brought the ball in, but made a mistake at the crucial moment and failed to score. However, shortly afterwards, Samoa committed another high tackle infringement in attack. This was scored by Japan’s SO LEE, making the score 10-0.

Up to this point, the game was almost ideally played by the Japanese national team.

25 minutes into the first half:

The Japan team committed an infringement deep in the crowd, almost in front of their own goal posts, and the Samoan team opted for a PG. SO LEALIFANO scored to make the score 10-3. It was the first score for the Samoan team.

30 minutes into the first half:

The Samoan team launched an attack from their own half and when the Japanese team went to tackle No.8 FAASSO, No.8 MICHAEL of the Japanese team committed a serious infringement by shoulder-bumping his opponent in the head. After deliberation by the referees, MICHAEL was shown a red card and sent off. As a result, Japan’s No.8 MICHAEL was suspended for the next three matches. The Japanese team also had to play the remaining 50 minutes with 14 men, one man less.

37 minutes of the first half:

Samoa’s FWs were 10 kg per player heavier than the Japanese FWs, but the Japanese team’s reduced numbers meant that they were clearly starting to get pushed at set pieces. Gradually, Samoa closed in on the enemy in-goal and, thanks to the FWs’ connection, scored a try on the left side of the goal post. The conversion goal after the try was also successful and the score was tied at 10-10.

The first half ended with this score, leaving a bad aftertaste for the Japanese team going into the second half.

Let’s get the second half underway.

2 minutes into the second half:

The Japanese team is at a numerical disadvantage and needs to score first in the second half. After a series of attacks in the second half, Japan’s lock FAKATAVA skillfully dodges the opposition defence and advances deep into enemy territory, where the Samoan team was forced to commit an infringement, giving Japan a PG opportunity. SO LEE made a steady kick to make the score 13-10 at the near post, 20 metres out.

7 minutes into the second half:

This time around, the momentum was seen in Japan’s favour. A little to the enemy’s left, SH NAGARE kicked up, which Samoan FB TOALA failed to catch and was fouled for a knock-on. From this point onwards, the Japanese team launched a series of attacks, closing in on the enemy in-goal. Here, Samoa committed an offside infringement and, directly in front of the goal posts and 10 metres out, the Japanese team opted for a PG. SO LEE again made a steady run to make the score 16-10.

8 minutes into the second half:

At the far left of the Japanese line, FB Yamanaka’s attempted kick was successfully charged down by Samoan SH TAUMATEINE, who held the ball in the in-goal for the try. Samoa’s SO Lealiifano then successfully converted the conversion goal after a try in a difficult position in the right corner, and the Samoan team showed a quick turnaround. The score was 16-17.

The game had once tilted in Japan’s favour, but the Samoans now took control of the game.

17 minutes into the second half:

The Japanese team tried to push back the tide of the game with a series of attacks, gradually moving forward in the opposition’s territory. After an offside infringement, the Japanese team opted for a penalty kick, which SO LEE converted to put Japan back in front 19-17.

21 minutes into the second half:

A late Samoan try had seen the Japanese team lose control of the game to their opponents, but here they began to gain the upper hand in the set piece and the densely contested battle. After a Samoan infringement deep in enemy territory. The Japanese team opted for the PG, which was a little to the left of the goal post, about 25 metres out, but SO LEE, who was kicking well on the day, was on hand to score it. The score was 22-17, with the Japanese team leading by five points.

23 minutes into the second half:

On the kick-off after the PG, SO LEE of the Japanese team made a knock-on mistake. This gave the Samoan team a scrum deep in enemy territory. From here, Samoa attacked down the left side of the scrum, dodged the Japanese defence and scored a try by WTB MANU in the left corner of the enemy in-goal. After the try, the conversion goal was also successful and the Samoans were back in it. The score was 22-24.

In the end, the game ended with this score, and it was a bad loss for the Japanese team, looking ahead to the main event.

The Samoan team has been steadily strengthening and is expected to face a tough challenge at RWC 2023. With 51 days to go, how far will the national team get? I want to keep a close eye on them.

After this game, I went to Sapporo Beer Garden near the stadium with a friend afterwards and enjoyed local Hokkaido beer and lamb.

It was a short trip of just two days and one night, but it was a very fruitful one.


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine


RUGBY JERSEY – Japan national rugby team training matches


(Written by AZUL: July 17, 2023)

On 8 July 2023, just two months before the start of RWC 2023, a Japan national rugby team training match was held at Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground in Minato Ward, Tokyo. I managed to get a ticket myself, but had to watch the game from a standing-room-only seat in the north stand.

Japan’s national rugby team has six more training matches to prepare for the RWC 2023, which starts on 8 September. This day was the first match.

** Schedule of matches  **

8 Jul: vs All Blacks XV

15 Jul: vs All Blacks XV

22 Jul: vs Samoa

29 Jul: vs Tonga

8/5: vs Fiji

8/26: vs Italy

Let me now introduce you to the two teams that will be playing in this match.

Firstly, I would like to introduce the Visitor Team, All Blacks XV.

This team is positioned as a reserve team for the New Zealand national team, the All Blacks. There is a possibility that some of the players from this team may be called up to the national team. Although reserves, each player is a mainstay of SUPER RUGBY, the world’s premier league. As national coach Tony Brown said, if this team continues to compete in the RWC, they are capable of making it to the last eight. In other words, in the first round of the training matches, the strongest team was up against them. Can the national team Japan really beat this All Blacks XV? Today’s starting line-up is as follows.

All Blacks
No.NameheightweightageNZ Caps
1Xavier NUMIA187cm112kg24 
2Ricky RICCITELLI178cm110kg27 
3Jermaine AINSLEY181cm112kg27 
4Naitoa AH KUOI196cm116kg23 
5Quinten STRANGE198cm120kg26 
6Akira IOANE194cm114kg2821
7DuPlessis KIRIFI181cm104kg25 
8Christian LIO-WILLIE187m109kg24 
9Brad WEBER173m78kg3218
10Stephen PEROFETA186cm85kg26 
11Etene NANAI-SETURO182cm92kg23 
12Jack GOODHUE187cm100kg28 
13Alex NANKIVELL188cm98kg26 
14Bailyn SULLIVAN187cm89kg22 
15Ruben LOVE183cm89kg22 

** Players to watch **

Akira IOANE: 194 cm, 114 kg, 28 years old. Position = FL; NZ cap = 21; IOANE is the number 6 player in the photo above; one of the most accomplished players in the squad for this match; one of the All Blacks’ mainstays. With his outstanding athleticism and strong breaking power, he is aiming for promotion to the national team. His ability is worthy of a regular place in the national team, although his form can fluctuate a little from match to match.

Next up is the Home Tam, Brave Blossoms XV.

The players participating in this match are members of the national team, although they are not granted caps as representatives of Japan, as the opposing team is not a national team. The uniforms worn on this day are for the Brave Blossom reserves. Currently, 46 national team candidates have been picked up, which will eventually be whittled down to 33, and as the final RWC member, they will have to compete fiercely within the national team until they make it to the games. As fans, we hope they will do even better than in the previous tournament. Good luck, Japan national team.

Brave Blossoms XV
No.NameheightweightageJapan Caps
1Craig MILLAR186cm116kg329
2Kosuke HORIKOSHI175cm100kg287
3Shinnosuke KAKINAGA180cm115kg3111
4James MOORE195cm110kg3013
5Amato FAKATAVA195cm118kg28 
6Michael LEITCH189cm113kg3478
7Shota FUKUI187cm108kg23 
8Faulua MAKISI187cm112kg265
9Naoto SAITO165cm73kg2511
10Rikiya MATSUDA181cm92kg2929
11Semisi MASIREWA181cm93kg312
12Shogo NAKANO186cm98kg266
13Dylan RILEY187cm102kg267
14Jone NAIKABULA177cm95kg29 
15Kotaro MATSUSHIMA178cm88kg2947

** Player to watch out for **.

Semisi MASIREWA. 181 cm, 93 kg, 31 years old. From Fiji. A talented player who boasted outstanding decision-making ability as a regular WTB for the Sun Wolves, Japan’s SUPER RUGBY team. His unparalleled decisiveness as a WTB could be a major weapon for Japan, and we look forward to seeing him in action at the RWC 2023.

Now the match is about to begin. The match, which took place in the middle of summer, kicked off at 17:00 in the evening.

5 minutes into the first half:

Brave Blossoms had made a point of strengthening their defence in the training camp just prior to the game. The Blossoms formed a ruck deep into enemy territory where All Blacks XV infringed in close quarters and a penalty kick was awarded to Japan. Here, the Blossoms opted for a PG, which SO MATSUDA converted and it was Brave Blossoms XV who scored first.

15 minutes into the first half:

The Blossoms were able to prevent All Blacks XV from breaking through the dense perimeter. However, this time, All Blacks XV got deep into enemy territory and from the own ball scrum they gained at that point, they deployed to the right. From the secondary attack here, All Blacks XV’s SO PEROFETA drifted to the right and went straight over two Blossoms defenders to score a try in the middle right. The conversion goal after the try failed and the score was 3-5 to All Blacks XV.

19 minutes into the first half:

All Blacks XV’s SO PEROFETA counter-attacked after the kick-off and quickly moved deep into enemy territory; the Blossoms were fouled in a tight pack at the point of attack. This was about 20 metres in front of the goalposts, so All Blacks XV selected to go for the PG, which they steadily converted to make the score 3-8.

23rd minute into the first half:

In this period, the Blossoms repeated a series of attacks, with the FW and BK working in unison, from a steady ball out of the scrum. All Blacks XV then committed an infringement in a tight battle and deep in enemy territory, the Blossoms had a PG opportunity. SO MATSUDA scored to make the score 6-8.

42 mins into the first half:

The Blossoms were first pushed over and fouled in a scrum that had been evenly matched up to this point. Here, the All Blacks XV opted for a PG, which was well executed, and for the Blossoms, it was a nasty point-blank score towards the end of the first half. The score was 6-14.

Brave Blossoms XV showed the fruits of their last minute training camp and showed some improvement in tackling around dense areas and pushing for scrums, but handling errors in crucial areas and infringements towards the end of the first half were the difference in the score.

The packed stadium is expecting a try from a series of Brave Blossoms attacks, but will we see scenes of attack in the second half that will make the whole stadium throb?

Let’s get the second half underway.

5 minutes into the second half:

Both teams deployed, advancing and retreating, but All Blacks XV drew an infringement from their opponents in a densely contested battle deep in enemy territory. This resulted in a PG opportunity for All Blacks XV in front of the goal posts, about 20 metres away. This was steadily converted and the first score of the second half was scored by All Blacks XV. The score was 6-14.

15 minutes of the second half:

The Blossoms were more than evenly matched at set pieces and made several show on several occasions. In response, All Blacks XV changed the rhythm of their deployed passing. Using off-load passing, they released the ball before contact with their opponents and gradually increased their follow-up numbers to make big gains in their opponents’ territory. Finally, CTB Goodhue scored a try in the middle left.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 21-6.

22 minutes into the second half:

All Blacks XV went deep into enemy territory and then deployed to the left, but a handling error resulted in the ball being spilled. However, All Blacks XV were quicker than the Blossoms in working the spilled ball, and were able to get it out wide, with WTB NANAI-SETURO eventually scoring a try in the middle on the left. The conversion goal after the try failed, leaving the score 6-26.

27 minutes of the second half:

Again in this period, All Blacks XV showed an attacking approach, pushing once around the pack and then developing outwards to connect. They continued to show an attacking pattern where they had an extra man at the end of the deployment. Finally, All Blacks XV CTB NANKIVELL scored a try in the right corner of the in-goal. The conversion goal after the try failed, leaving the score 6-31.

Up until this time, the Blossoms had scored zero tries, but had seen little forward movement in breaking an open defensive line, so boos began to fly from the stands.

41 minutes into the second half:

Towards the end of the match, All Blacks XV had an opportunity for a lineout of their own deep in enemy territory. They failed to make the catch, but it was successfully connected and replacement SH FAKATAVA took advantage of a hole in the defence to score a try in the middle left of the in-goal area. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the final score 6-38.

This was the first of six consecutive games for the national team, but it was a bad start. The score was not the only thing to blame, but the fact that the match ended in no tries also made for a bad aftertaste. We hope the Japanese team will rally in the next round.


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine


RUGBY JERSEY -2022-23 League One Division One Play-off Final: Panasonic Saitama Wild Knightsvs KUBOTA SPEARS

(Written by AZUL: June 11, 2023)

The play-off final to conclude this season’s Japan Rugby League One took place on 20 May 2023 at the National Stadium in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Pictured above is the League One championship cup. The person holding it was the TV personality Sho Sakurai.

According to the weather forecast, this year’s Kanto region was close to the start of the rainy season, and the weather was delicate, with rain likely to fall on this day. However, as might be expected from a final match, the event attracted a large number of spectators.

The total number of spectators on the day was 41,794, about 8,000 more than last year’s final. I think the increase in spectators was partly due to the reduced impact of the new corona outbreak. As expected, the attendance did not match the Japan vs NZ match last summer(64,000). This year, RWC 2023 will take place and I hope that the domestic training matches next month will be more exciting.

The schedule for the national team’s training matches just before RWC 2023 is as follows:

8 Jul vs All Blacks XV – match 1: Tokyo

15 Jul vs All Blacks XV – match 2: Kumamoto

22 July vs SAMOA: Sapporo

29 Jul vs TONGA: Osaka

5 Aug vs FIJI: Tokyo

The two teams that made it to the prestigious finals were,

Panasonic Wild Nights and Kubota Spears.

The two teams that made it to the prestigious finals were,

Panasonic Wild Nights and Kubota Spears.

Wild Nights are aiming to win the championship for the third season in a row, while their opponents, Spears, are aiming for their first championship.

Let me introduce both teams.

First, let me introduce the current champions, Panasonic Wild Nights.

The club was founded in 1960. This prestigious team has won the Japanese Rugby Championship six times. The Wild Nights’ winning pattern is to let their opponents attack in the first half but keep up with them, and then in the second half, they quickly fold up to win the game in reverse order. The team as a whole shows their high overall strength with a well-coordinated defence and attack. Will the team’s iron-clad defence also show in this match that they can capitalise on their opponents’ tiredness and mistakes to score points? And can today’s final opponents, Spears, prevent Wild Nights from winning again?

This day’s Wild Nights starting line-up was as follows.

Panasonic Wild Nights
1Keita Inagaki186cm116kg31Japan 44cap
2Atsushi Sakade180cm104kg28Japan 32cap
3Asaeri Ai VALU187cm115kg29Japan 23cap
4Mark ABBOTT197cm112kg32NZ 14cap
5Lood De JAGER206cm127kg30Soth Africa 65cap
6Shota FUKUI186cm101kg23Japan
7Lachlan BOSHIER191cm104kg27 
8Jack CORNELSEN195cm110kg28Japan 11cap
9Keisuke UCHIDA179cm86kg30Japan 22cap
10Rikiya Matsuda181cm92kg28Japan 29cap
11Marika KOROIBETE182cm96kg30Australia 51cap
12Damian De ALLENDE190cm105kg31Soth Africa 68cap
13Dylan RILEY187cm102kg25Japan 9cap
14Tomoki OSADA179cm90kg23 
15Ryuji Noguchi177cm83kg27Japan 14cap

** Player to watch **.

Shota FUKUI. 186 cm, 101 kg. 23 years old. Position = Flanker. Japan national team candidate. A graduate of Higashi Fukuoka High School. At 23 years of age, he is a regular in the Wild Nights team, which features players representing many countries. A fighter who is never afraid to face any opponent, and his excellent reading of the game ensures that he is involved at key points in attack and defence. He is expected to be a key player for Japan at the upcoming RWC 2023.

Next, I introduce KUBOTA SPEARS, who were fired up after their first appearance in the finals.

KUBOTA SPEARS was founded in 1980. Since the Top League was first established, the team was in the bottom half of the league and was once relegated to a lower league before crawling back up and making a breakthrough around 2020. Regular players boast the league’s No. 1 size and physical strength, and are always dominant at set pieces. The team shows particular strength in the battle for the ball by the FWs. In the season’s match against Wild Nights, they were defeated 15-30. In previous matches, Spears had a very poor record against Wild Nights, winning 4- losing 18. Can Spears make new history in Japanese rugby in this final?

Today’s starting line-up was as follows.

1Yota KAMIMORI172cm105kg28 
2Malkolm Marx189cm117kg28South Africa 57cap
3Kengo KITAGAWA178cm110kg30Japan 3cap
4Yuki AOKI188cm105kg30 
5Ruan BOTHA205cm120kg30 
6Finau TUPA190cm115kg33 
7Takeo SUENAGA178cm98kg28 
8Faulua Makisi187cm112kg25Japan 5cap
9Kazuhiro TANIGUCHI164cm73kg27 
10Bernard Foley182cm89kg33Australia 75cap
11Haruto KIDA176cm90kg23 
12Harumichi TATEKAWA180cm93kg33Japan 56cap
13Ryan CROTTY181cm94kg34New Zealand 48cap
14Koga Nezuka173cm82kg24Japan 1cap
15Gerhard Van Den Heever192cm102kg33Japan 5cap

** Player to watch **.

Harumichi TAYEKAWA. 180 cm, 93 kg. 33 years old. Position = CTB, SO. national team cap = 56. from Tenri University. Captain of KUBOTA SPEARS. A key player in Japan’s breakthrough RWC 2015. Apart from the Japan national team, he also played many matches for SUPER RUGBY. He was unable to win a championship with his previous teams, but in his seventh year as captain of KUBOTA, he was aiming to win the championship on this final stage. His style of play shows a risk-taking and physicality in attack and defence. He also possesses the same wide vision and precise passing and kicking skills as he showed at RWC 2015.

Let’s get the match underway.

First 11 minutes of the first half:

The game was played in a solid manner as both teams were keen to win. A stalemate ensued as both sides fought for the ball in a densely contested battle, with the forces being so close that SPEARS won the ball back from their opponents in a densely contested battle, only for Wild Nights to win it back two minutes later.

The Wild Nights pushed forward into enemy territory, close to the in-goal, where the SPEARS defence held firm and they were unable to score a try. They were then pushed back to around the 10m line of enemy area, where SPEARS were infringed. Here, Wild Nights had the right of the PG and SO MATSUDA was in a relatively comfortable position but failed.

20 minutes into the first half:

SPEARS entered enemy territory in a densely contested battle, where Wild Nights committed a Not Role Away infringement. Here, SPEARS opted for a PG, which SO FOLEY converted to make the score 0-3. The first score was done by SPEARS.

26 minutes into the first half:

The game had developed to this point and SPEARS had a slight advantage in the scrum and lineout of the set-pieces: even when Wild Nights kicked off and pushed deep into enemy territory, they were unable to secure their own ball in the scrum and lineout there. As a result, they were pushed back into their own territory, from where SPEARS made a series of attacks to push forward and close in on the enemy’s in-goal. This time Wild Nights were fouled for offside and SPEARS opted for a PG. As it was only about 10 metres from the front of goal, SO FOLEY successfully converted the PG and the score was 0-6.

34 minutes of the first half:

Wild Nights counter-attacked from their own half, and with an extra man on the left flank, a pass to their trump card WTB KOLOIBETE was knocked on, an uncharacteristic Wild Nights infringement and an opportunity squandered.

However, FB NOGUCHI then kicked the ball back into his own half and committed an infringement when his opponent contested the ball. Here, Wild Nights opted for a PG, which SO MATSUDA converted to make the score 3-6.

38 minutes into the first half:

Shortly after the kick-off at the end of the first half, Wild Nights committed a painful infringement deep in their own half. It was 15 metres in front of the goal post. Here, SPEARS opted for a PG and SO FOLEY was solidly successful, making the score 3-9.

With this score, the first half came to an end. In this match, Wild Nights’ minor errors in the deciding moments were noticeable. It was a slightly worrying sign.

Now for the start of the second half.

6 minutes into the second half:

While the game was going on in the Wild Nights camp, a Wild Nights player committed an offside infringement. In this position, about 20 metres from the front of the goal posts, SPEARS opted for a PG. The penalty kick was taken by SPEARS’ SO FOLEY, making the score 3-12. The first goal of the second half was scored by SPEARS.

18 minutes into the second half:

Wild Nights, as usual, went on the offensive around this time and SPEARS were repeatedly fouled after getting into their own half and were then forced into a series of infringements, right up to the 22m line. Here, Wild Nights secured the ball from a lineout on their own ball, and then tried to push forward in a maul. The maul continued for nearly 10 meters and Wild Nights scored a try in the middle left of the enemy’s in-goal. The scorer was hooker HORIE, who came on as a substitute. It was the first try scored by either team in the match.

The converted goal after the try was also successful and the score was 10-12.

25 minutes of the second half:

During this period, Wild Nights showed a great concentration throughout the team to connect with the ball. The attacking period continued, putting pressure on the opposition and closing in on the in-goal. The Wild Nights then moved to the right and the ball was passed to WTB OSADA who was positioned on the right line. OSADA moved forward and cut in to score a try right in the in-goal, passing three SPEARS defenders. The crowd erupted into the biggest cheer of the day. A converted goal after the try failed, but the score was 15-12 to Wild Nights.

29 minutes into the second half:

The stadium was buzzing in the aftermath of the Wild Nights try earlier, but this time, the crowds were mesmerised by SPEARS.

SPEARS kicked off into enemy territory, and a high punt was kicked back to WTB NEZUKA, who successfully re-captured it. From here, SPEARS moved to the left, CTB TATEKAWA kicked a pass and WTB KIDA, who was unmarked at the time, caught the ball and went on to score a try in the middle left.

The conversion goal after the try failed and the score was 15-17.

With about 10 minutes to go, the score difference was only 2 points, and Wild Nights would have to score another PG in enemy territory to regain the lead. In other words, SPEARS could not commit any infringements in their own half. The remainder of the half was very tense.

35 minutes of the second half:

Wild Nights advance to the enemy 22m line, and then turn to the right, where a pass from WTB KOLOIBETE fails to get across to FB NOGUCHI, who is positioned on the outside, and goes off the touchline.

As the game approached the final stages, SPEARS stopped trying to force the ball and concentrated on blocking their opponents’ advances.

SPEARS continued to hold onto the ball and the game came to an end. The final score was 15-17.

KUBOTA SPEARS finally won the championship for the first time since the club was founded in 1980. They have added a new page to the history of Japanese rugby. Congratulations to the KUBOTA SPEARS.

And KUBOTA’s CTB TATEKAWA was named man of the match on the day. His kick-pass leading to the final try was the highlight of the match.

The season has come to an end with this match, but RWC 2023 awaits in the autumn. We look forward to more success from Japan’s national team players.


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine


RUGBY JERSEY -2022-23 League One Division One play-off semi-final: Panasonic Saitama Wild Knights vs YOKOHAMA CANON EAGLES

(Author: Azul, May 28, 2023)

The 2023 Japan Rugby League One season reaches its climax. The play-off schedules are as follows:

13 May Semi-final 1: League 1st vs League 4th

14 May Semi-final 2: League 2nd vs League 3rd

19 May 3rd place play-off: loser of semi-final 1 vs loser of semi-final 2

20 May Final: winner of Semi Final 1 vs winner of Semi Final 2

This time, I watched the matches,

13 May Semi-final 1: Panasonic Wild Knights vs CANON EAGLES

The venue was Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground in Minato Ward, Tokyo, a sacred place for rugby in eastern Japan.

On the day of the match, there was an unfortunate light rain. However, despite the bad weather, there were 16,237 spectators on the day. This shows the high expectations of rugby fans in Japan.

Here is an update on the two teams for the day’s matches.

First up are the Panasonic Wild Knights, who are the 2023 League One 1st placed team. Their record this season was 15 wins-1 lose.

Last season’s League One champions, the Wild Knights head into this season’s play-offs with a second consecutive title on the line. Their only loss this season came against the Shizuoka Blue Revs on 15 Apr by a score of 25-44. The Blue Revs and Wild Knights matches are often close, but by the end the Blue Revs had the advantage in the scrums. It will be interesting to see how far Wild Knights can learn from that defeat and show their ability in this semi-final.

The starting line-up for today’s Wild Knights is as follows.

Panasonic Wild Nights
1Keita Inagaki186cm116kg31Japan 44cap
2Atsushi Sakade180cm104kg28Japan 32cap
3Asaeri Ai VALU187cm115kg29Japan 23cap
4Mark ABBOTT197cm112kg32NZ 14cap
5Lood De JAGER206cm127kg30Soth Africa 65cap
6Shota FUKUI186cm101kg23Japan
7Lachlan BOSHIER191cm104kg27 
8Jack CORNELSEN195cm110kg28Japan 11cap
9Keisuke UCHIDA179cm86kg30Japan 22cap
10Rikiya Matsuda181cm92kg28Japan 29cap
11Marika KOROIBETE182cm96kg30Australia 51cap
12Damian De ALLENDE190cm105kg31Soth Africa 68cap
13Dylan RILEY187cm102kg25Japan 9cap
14Tomoki OSADA179cm90kg23 
15Ryuji Noguchi177cm83kg27Japan 14cap

** Player to watch **

Ryuji NOGUCHI. 177 cm, 83 kg, 27 years old. Position = FB, WTB. from Tokai University. Japan national team Cap = 14. As a FB, he has the overall ability to be No.1 in Japan when it comes to dealing with the opposing team’s kicks, his unmatched accuracy, his situational judgement and his top speed. The only thing missing is that his physique is a little inferior to that of FBs from strong foreign countries. However, there are FBs under 180 cm in other countries in Tier 1, so there is a possibility that he will be selected for the Japanese squad for the RWC 2023.

By the way, I would like to introduce the CANON Eagles, who will play against the Wild Knights.

The Eagles finished fourth in League One this season (10 wins, 4 losses and 2 draws) and, for the first time since their inception, have reached the play-offs. Under the guidance of renowned coach Sawaki, the EAGLES have steadily improved their ability every year. This season, the team’s squad was further strengthened by the addition of world-class SH De KLERK from the South African national team. In this season’s matches against WildKnights.

1/28: lost 19-21.

5/13: lost 51-20.

The EAGLES have yet to win against the WildKnights, but you never know until you try.

The EAGLES starting line-up for the day is as follows.

CANON Eagles
1Takato OKABE180cm105kg28 
2Yusuke Niwai174cm95kg31Japan 10cap
3Tatsuro SUGIMOTO175cm110kg26 
4Max DOUGLAS201cm112kg22 
5Liakimatagi MOLI197cm114kg32 
6Kobus Van DYK196cm108kg28 
7Naoto Shimada181cm99kg31Japan
8Sione HARASILI180cm120kg23 
9Faf DEKLARK172cm88kg31South Africa 44cap
10Yu Tamura181cm92kg34Japan 70cap
11Chihito MATSUI183cm88kg28Japan 2cap
12Naoya MINAMIHASHI178cm86kg33 
13Jesse Kriel185cm95kg29South Africa 58cap
14Inoke BURUA178cm95kg23 
15Jumpei OGURA172cm80kg30Japan 4cap

** Player to watch **

Inoke BURUA. 178 cm, 95 kg, 23 years old. Position = WTB. born in Fiji. He combines Fijian-specific outstanding speed with strong physicality. He has been a regular member of the Eagles since joining the club, scoring tries on a regular basis. He excels in attack, but also shows strength in defence.

Now, let the game begin.

Kick-off in light rain. As the match was played in the rain, both teams tried to use kicks to gain positional advantage over each other. Early in the start, Wild Knights prop VALU made an illegal tackle and was temporarily sent off. This seemed to give the EAGLES the advantage, but it was Wild Knights who took the game to the opposition in the early stages.

14 minutes into the first half:

After an early kicking duel, the Wild Knights were aggressive in their own half, looking to push forward. They created several try-scoring opportunities, but ultimately failed to score.

The Eagles, on the other hand, made a quick move into enemy territory and, after a penalty kick following an infringement by their opponents, made a quick move forward to near the enemy in-goal. This was once again blocked by the Wild Knights, but a foul on this occasion allowed the EAGLES to maul their way through a lineout and score a try on the left side of the enemy in-goal. The try was scored by EAGLES No. 8 HARASILI.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful and the score was 0-7 to the EAGLES.

18 minutes into the first half:

Wild Knights kicked off after a try had been scored, and after entering enemy territory, the EAGLES committed a collapsing infringement in a scrum on their own ball, so they opted for a penalty kick. This was scored by SO MATSUDA to make the score 3-7.

20 minutes of the second half:

From the restart kick-off, the EAGLES made a series of attacks in enemy territory. A Wild Knights infringement in front of the opposition in-goal allowed the Eagles to get going and a long pass from SH DEKLARK to WTB BURUA, who was waiting in the right hand corner, led to BURUA scoring a try in the middle of the right flank. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 3-14.

23rd and 29th minutes of the first half:

The Wild Knights were unable to score a try, but they did force an infringement deep in enemy territory, giving them the chance to take a penalty kick, which SO MATSUDA converted with two successful strikes. The score was 9-14 to the EAGLES.

35 minutes of the first half:

The Wild Knights again went close to the opposition’s in-goal in this period, with a series of attacks. Several try opportunities were created, but the EAGLES’ defender was at every turn to deny them. However, a series of attacks saw the ball go to SO MATSUDA, who was close to the front of the goal posts, where he quickly scored a drop goal. The crowd in the stands cheered loudly for this lightning-fast move. The score was 12-14.

(SO MATSUDA’s DG was so quick that I could not get a photo in time. Shame.)

38 minutes of the first half:

The Eagles attacked in the opposition territory, and the Wild Knights kicked an in-goal drop-out from their own half, and SO TAMURA of the Eagles received the ball near the half-way line, and from that position scored a drop goal from an estimated 45 metres. The score was 12-17. I had never seen a game where both teams exchanged drop goals before. I was happy to be able to watch such a match. Maybe DG will be Japan’s secret weapon at RWC 2023.

42 minutes of the first half:

Towards the end of the first half, the Wild Nights were awarded a penalty kick after SO TAMURA of the EAGLES made a dangerous tackle on SO MATSUDA of the Wild Nights during a series of attacks by the Wild Nights in enemy territory. Wild Nights’ SO MATSUDA steadily took it, making the score 15-17.

Note that EAGLES’ SO TAMURA was temporarily sent off for 10 minutes from the start of the second half for this foul.

The first half ended with this score, with the EAGLES leading by two points at the break. However, the EAGLES will be without their commanding SO TAMURA for the first 10 minutes of the second half, and the focus of the second half will be on how far the EAGLES can stick it out.

Let’s get the second half underway.

2 minutes into the second half:

The EAGLES kicked off to start the game, and Wild Nights catched the ball from the kick off and launched a series of attacks, once kicking the ball into enemy territory, they won it again. As expected, Wild Nights started the second half with everyone stepping up a gear and not losing the ball as often.

Wild Nights used the ground wide and deployed the ball, with CTB RILEY cutting inside and coming close to the opposition’s goal posts. From the resulting tight pack, WTB KOLOIBETE sidestepped and scored a try almost directly behind the goal posts.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 22-17. Early in the second half, Wild Nights took the lead for the first time in the match.

11 minutes into the second half:

EAGLES could not let Wild Nights pull away and went on the offensive. They pushed deep into enemy territory and a move to the right saw WTB BURUA, who was on the outside, close in on the opposition in-goal, only to be pushed off his line by the Wild Nights defenders. However, Wild Nights were then fouled for offside, whereupon EAGLES opted for a penalty goal, which was scored by FB OGURA, making the score 22-20.

13 minutes into the second half:

The score was close at two points apiece, but gradually the Wild Nights began to push forward on the offensive. After a kicking duel to take possession, Wild Nights FB NOGUCHI jumped on a high ball kicked by his own team and successfully re-captured it, from where Wild Nights connected with the ball and finally WTB KOLOIBETE, running in from behind at full speed, crossed the line from behind to score behind the enemy He ran in behind the in-goal posts to score a try. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 29-20.

17 minutes of the second half:

During this period, both teams kicked each other and tried to put the game in their own favour, but the individual skills of Wild Nights’ FB Noguchi allowed the Wild Nights to attack in rapid succession, always in the opposition’s half. Finally, Wild Nights CTB RILEY broke through the EAGLES’ defense before the goal post and scored a try in the middle on the left of the in-goal area. The conversion goal after the try was also successful and the score, 36-20.

30 minutes into the second half:

Wild Nights were fouled by EAGLES in a scrum set up slightly to the right near the enemy 10m line and opted for a penalty kick in this position. This was scored by Wild Nights’ SO MATSUDA, making the score 39-20.

31 minutes into the second half:

The EAGLES were getting a little tired and in enemy territory when the Wild Nights attacked, the initial response of the defense was delayed and when the ball was passed to WTB KOLOIBETE, who was on the left edge of the Wild Nights attack, no one on the defense was on hand. As it was, KOLOIBETE ran all the way to the enemy in-goal to score his third try of the day. The conversion goal after the try failed and the score was 44-20.

36 minutes of the second half:

In the closing minutes, the Wild Nights are still on the attack. They were closing in on the opposition’s in-goal, and after winning the ball from a lineout on the left, they moved forward in a maul and Wild Nights hooker HORIE, who was controlling the maul from the back row, scored a try in the left corner of the in-goal. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 51-20.

The game ended with the score 51-20, with Wild Nights winning the match and progressing to the play-off final on 20 May, and the Eagles losing the match and moving on to the third-place play-off on 19 May. Will Wild Nights be able to win back-to-back League One titles? And can the EAGLES win their final game of the season?


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine


RUGBY JERSEY -2022-23 League One Division 1 Final: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Sagamihara Dynaboars vs RICOH Black Rams

(Author: Azul, May 10, 2023)

This time, I went to Sagamihara GION Stadium to watch the final match of League One Division 1.

First of all, let’s check the standings of League One Division 1 at the start of the final round:

2022-23League One Order(Division 1)2023.4.22
1Saitama Wildnights151069269
2Kubota Spears131161281
3Tokyo Sungoliath123055219
4Yokohama Eagles92449241
5Tokyo Brave Lupas106041164
6Toyota Verblitz780339
7Shizuoka Blue Revs5283011
8Black Rams Tokyo51002620
9Kobe Steelers510025-73
10Sagamihara Dynaboars410120-239
11Green Rockets Tokatsu21309-262
12Hanazono Riners11405-540
WP=Winning Point
GD=Goal Difference

As of 22 April, the teams that will advance to the play-offs (i.e. the top four teams) and the teams that will participate in the replacement round (i.e. the bottom three teams) have been confirmed.

The home team this time, Dynaboars, finished 10th out of 12 teams in Division 1 and will play in the replacement round.

Their opponents in the round-robin matches will be the Toyota Shuttles, the third-placed team in Division 2, who will play two matches on a home-and-away basis from 5 May. The teams in the replacement round have a small difference in ability, so it is difficult to predict who will win. Also, both players and fans are very passionate in their support as they never want to lose.

In this sense, the final League One match of the day is also an important one. Especially for Dynaboars, the season is not over yet, so we have to make sure that the players are in peak condition for the replacement game.

Let me now introduce both teams for the match of the day.

First, let me introduce the home team, Sagamihara Dynaboars.

The photo above shows the Dynastars, the cheerleaders of the Dynaboars. On this day, they also cheered us up with their support.

Before the season started, there were pessimistic predictions that the Dynaboars would finish in last place. However, at the start of the League One season, they were the stars of the first half of the season, defeating last season’s top teams, RICOH Black Rams, Toyota Verblitz and TOSHIBA Brave Lupas.

The team’s dramatic run of victories has given hope for the team’s prospects for next season and beyond, and Dynaboars fans will have shown a lot of growth to cheer for. Today’s starting line-up is as follows:

1Shunsuke SAKAMOTO180cm107kg24 
2Yoshimitsu YASUE176cm109kg38Japan 2caps
3Jun MORIMOTO175cm115kg25 
4Epineri ULUIVITI196cm122kg26 
5Walt STEENKAMP203cm121kg27 
6Sam CHONCKIT198cm106kg27 
7Yusuke SAKAMOTO176cm95kg24 
8Jackson HEMOPO194cm112kg29NZ 5caps
9Ryuta NAKAMORI174cm75kg22 
10Matt TOOMUA182cm90kg32Australia 59caps
11Satoshi KOIZUMI178cm86kg22 
12Henry BRACKIN180cm95kg34Japan 7th
13Nozomi NARA179cm94kg26 
14Toh Jr. VAEGA175cm85kg25 
15Kazuki ISHIDA173cm85kg26 

The Dynaboars can be characterised as a generally defensively sound team. In other words, their scoring ability is lower than other Division 1 teams. The Dynaboars rugby this season is all attack and all defence, as there are no outstanding attacking core players.

** Player to watch **

Satoshi KOIZUMI. 178 cm, 86 kg, 22 years old. Waseda University graduate. Born in Sagamihara City, home of the Dynaboars, he started playing rugby at Sagamihara RS. A rookie with a long left-footed kick, he is the team’s most promising player, having earned a starting place towards the end of League One. Fans are hoping that his development will lead to a breakthrough for the Dynaboars.

By the way, let’s introduce the Visitor Team of the day, the RICOH Black Rams.

As the team name Black Rams symbolises, many of the players in the team are from the southern hemisphere, with players from New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and Tonga, making for a powerful attacking force. In contrast to the Dynaboars, the first half of the season saw a string of defeats and a poor run of results, but in the second half of the season, the team’s attacking rugby began to work and they won a number of games in a row. Compared to last season, the team has a stronger squad of players, which has led to this season’s breakthrough.

Today’s starting line-up is as follows.

Black Rams
1Kazuma NISHI180cm112kg27 
2Ko SATO168cm95kg23 
3Taichi CHIBA176cm117kg28 
4Michael Stolberg204cm120kg30 
5Lotoahea Pohiva YAMATO192cm115kg34 
6Amato Fakatava195cm118kg28 
7Brodi McCURRAN192cm105kg28 
8Nathan HUGHES196cm126kg31England 22caps
9Shota YAMAMOTO166cm74kg32 
10Kohei Horigome177cm89kg27 
11Netani Vakayalia180cm88kg24 
12Hadleigh PARKES187cm103kg35Wales 29caps
13Amanaki Taiyo LOTOAHEA189cm100kg25Japan 8caps
14Yuta KURIHARA179cm90kg25 
15Izac Lucas178cm84kg23 

** Players to watch **.

Isaac Lucas. 178 cm, 84 kg, 23 years old. Born in Australia; U20 Australian national team. Position = SO, FB. the face of the Black Rams and a key player in attack. His run play is characteristic and his ability to break through once he gets into opposition territory makes him a threat to the opposing team.

Let’s kick off today’s match.

The attendance on the day was 3,140. This was the last match of the season, which was a digestive match, but it attracted a large crowd. You could feel the high expectations for the local team.

17 minutes into the first half:

Despite not scoring, the Black Rams continued to attack in opposition territory throughout, with Black Rams No 8 Nathan HUGHES making several effective breakthroughs, and the Black Rams opted for a penalty after a foul on the Dynaboars during an attack in opposition territory. The lineout was on the right near the enemy 22m line and was a own ball lineout. Here, the Black Rams won the ball and mauled their way forward and scored a try in the middle right of the enemy in-goal. The score was scored by No. 8 Nathan HUGHES. A conversion goal after the try failed, leaving the score 0-5 to the Black Rams.

24 minutes into the first half:

From the kick-off after the try, the Dynaboars attacked in enemy territory, but were unable to make headway when deployed and were eventually forced back into their own territory by a Black Rams counter attack.

Here, the Black Rams entered enemy territory and, in much the same position as they had been at the time of the first try, they were penalised for an infringement by their opponents. Here, Black Rams SO HORIGOME kicked out to the 22m line on the right side of the opposition line, giving the Black Rams the opportunity to take the ball out of their own half, where they formed a maul and followed the same pattern as before, looking to score a try. However, the Dynaboars broke up the maul midway through, so it had to be rearranged.

From another lineout, the Black Rams successfully formed a maul and raced into the middle of the opposition in-goal on the right, with hooker SATOH scoring the try. The conversion goal after the try failed, leaving the score 0-10.

30 minutes of the first half:

The Dynaboars had been poor on the flanks, struggling to win possession, and when they did get to the BK, they were caught by the opposition defence and were unable to break the gain line.

The Black Ramas again followed the same pattern, scoring their third try of the day from a lineout, forming a maul and rolling into the opposition territory to score a try. The try was scored by No.8 Nathan Hughes. The conversion goal after the try was also successful and the score was 0-17, giving Black Rams a big lead.

38 minutes into the first half:

Black Rams deployed deep in enemy territory and looked to have scored a try in the middle right, but the referee ruled it a no try.

Shortly afterwards, however, the Black Rams attacked through sign play following an infringement by their opponents in front of the opposition goal, and a maul saw them score a try in the middle left. The try was scored by Black Rams FL McCURRAN. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 0-24.

The first half ended with the score unchanged. The Black Rams almost took control of the attack and the Dynaboars did not even look like scoring.

Can the Dynaboars recover from this poor start in the second half?

Let’s get the second half underway.

7 minutes into the second half:

After resetting their bodies at half-time, the Dynaboars players showed some persistence in the densely-packed battle. They entered the enemy territory and began to continue with a series of attacks, and in front of the enemy in-goal, they attacked again and again from the density and finally Dynaboars’ No.8 HEMOPO scored a try right in the middle of the in-goal. A converted goal after the try was also successful, making the score 7-24.

13 minutes into the second half:

In the second half, Dynaboars’ attacking time increased dramatically. This was accompanied by a reduction in the number of penalties committed by the Dynaboars and more opportunities to get close to the opposition’s in-goal. The Dynaboars then took advantage of an infringement by their opponents and, from a lineout in front of the in-goal on the left side of the opposition line, formed a maul and went on to score a try. The try was scored by hooker YASUE. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 14-24.

26 minutes into the second half:

The Dynaboars attack started to gain momentum here. Whereas the Black Rams had scored in the first half through a tight FW game, the Dynaboars’ attack used the ground more widely and attacked with all hands. This opened up holes in the Black Rams’ defence and allowed the Dynaboars players to flourish.

The Dynaboars players continued to attack in a densely contested enemy position in front of goal, culminating in substitute No.8 CURTIS scoring a try to the left side of the goal post. The conversion goal after the try was also successful and the score was 21-24, with the Dynaboars finally within three points.

32 minutes into the second half:

With the Black Rams three points behind, they changed their attacking style and, like the Dynaboars, their BKs began to connect the ball and spread it all over the ground.

Only in the second half did Black Rams get close to the opposition in-goal, with the FWs finally charging forward from sign play and No.8 HUGHES scoring a try in the middle on the right. The conversion goal after the try was also successful and the score, 21-31.

The final score remained the same and the game was over. At the end of the first half, it looked like a convincing win for Black Rams, but the Dynaboars rallied in the second half to make it a match worth watching.

The Black Rams will now finish the season, while the Dynaboars will play two more matches in the replacement round. We look forward to a continuation of the hotly contested matches.


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine


RUGBY JERSEY -2022-23 League One Division 2 Standings:

Urayasu D-Rocks VS Toyota Industries Corporation Shuttles Aichi

(Author: Azul, April 20, 2023)

On 9 April 2023, the Japan Rugby League One Division 2 standings began on this date. The league matches, which were played over the last week, will decide the three teams in the top group and the three teams in the bottom group. Thereafter, within each group, a round-robin competition will be played to determine the final standings. Therefore, even if a team finishes first in the Division 2 league matches, it will finish third if it loses the ranking round again.

The top groups in Division 2 are,

Urayasu D-ROCKS: 10 wins-0 losses- 1st place

Honda HEATS: 8 wins, 2 losses – 2nd place

Toyota Shuttles: 6 wins, 4 losses – 3rd place

The three teams are. This time I went to watch the Urayasu D-ROCKS vs Toyota Shuttles match.

The venue was Yumenoshima Athletics Stadium in Koto-ku, Tokyo, a six-minute walk from Shinkiba Station on the JR Keiyo Line, which was easily accessible from the station.

The capacity of the Yumenoshima Athletics Stadium is 5,050 people. The number of visitors on that day was 1,388

Let me now introduce the two teams playing on the day.

First, let me introduce the home team, Urayasu D-ROCKS.

Last season, they were relegated from Division 1 to Division 2 and have been fighting for promotion back to Division 1 this season. D-ROCKS, who have won 10-0 so far without any problems, will be looking to finish first in this round of the play-offs and head into the replacement round.

The starting line-up for D-ROCKS on this day was as follows.

1Kabuto ANOKU178cm105kg29 
2Franco MARAIS185cm107kg30 
3Syuhei Takeuchi183cm115kg25Japan 2cap
4Ryong Ji KIM192cm107kg28 
5Lourence ERASUMUS200cm123kg29 
6Jimmy TUPOU196cm113kg30 
7Tetta SHIGEMATSU178cm94kg23 
8Liam GILL185cm103kg23Australia 15cap
9Ren IINUMA170cm75kg22 
10Hayden CRIPPS177cm80kg32 
11Kai ISHII179cm85kg29 
12Samisoni TUA182cm108kg27 
13Shane GATES183cm95kg30Japan 4cap
14Larry SULUNGA183cm102kg24 
15Takuhei YASUDA177cm80kg26Japan 2cap

The team members were almost the same as in the last match of the league.

** Player to watch **.

Shane GATES. 183 cm, 95 kg, 30 years old. From South Africa. Position = CTB; Japan caps = 4. Joined Urayasu D-Rocs after Super Rugby’s Kings and Sun Wolves; first selected as a national team candidate in 2019, but suffered a serious injury in a match that same year that took 21 months to fully heal. After a long rehabilitation process, his indomitable fighting spirit saw him selected again for the national team. On this day, GATES earned a total of 50 caps for D-ROCKS (including its predecessor, Shining Arcs). Congratulations to him.

Then, I would like to introduce the Visitor Team of the day, the Toyota Shuttles.

Last season, the team was in Division 3, but after being promoted this season, they quickly moved up in Division 2 and are aiming for promotion to Division 1 next season. It is remarkable that this team has made it this far despite the fact that few of its players have represented their respective countries. We can’t take our eyes off them to see how far they can go.

The starting line-up for the day was as follows.

1Hyosuke WATANABE167cm104kg27 
2Akito FUJINAMI170cm100kg27 
3Ryota FUKAMURA186cm125kg29 
4Taishi NAKAMURA189cm110kg27 
5James GASKELL201cm118kg32England 1cap
6Tama KAPENE190cm112kg23 
7Shoichi YURA180cm99kg26 
8Talifolofora TANGIPA186cm115kg26 
9Keita FUJIWARA174cm83kg28 
10Akihiro SHIMIZU175cm83kg27 
11Go NAKANO170cm85kg26 
12Josh MATAVESI188cm120kg32Fiji 24cap
13Hitoshi MATSUMOTO180cm92kg29 
14Hiroaki SAITO181cm90kg23 
15Tim SWIEL181cm88kg29 

** Player to watch **

Josh MATAVESI.(Player standing to the left of the referee in the middle of the photo) 188 cm, 120 kg, 32 years old. Position = SO, WTB, CTB, FB. 24cap for Fiji. played in RWC 2015 and 2019. Despite being a giant of a man weighing 120 kg, he is a utility player who can play any position in BK except SH, and is outstanding when it comes to speed and breaking through.

Let’s get the match underway.

1 minute of the first half:

Shortly after the kick-off to start the game, a ball kicked in by Shuttles is secured by a player from his own team, who inadvertently floats it backwards and was intercepted by D-ROCKS’ FL TUPOU. As it was, TUPOU slipped behind the Shuttles’ defensive net and passed to FB YASUDA, who ran straight into the opposition in-goal for the first no-whistle try.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 7-0 to D-ROCKS.

3 minutes into the first half:

The ball from the kick-off after the try was first caught by a D-ROCKS player. From here, the D-Rocks FW players connected, but the Shuttles defence was not tackling well and the D-Rocks players made one off-load pass after another to push forward, and finally a Shuttles player made a tackle, leading to a ruck, from which SH IINUMA passed to WTB SULUNGA, who advanced at full stretch, and as he approached the in-goal, he got tangled up with the opposition defence, but rolled a golo punt into the in-goal,and held it himself in the middle right of the in-goal to score a try. It was a series of no-whistle tries, which was rarely seen in professional matches. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 14-0.

The Shuttles players seemed to be fired up after this series of tries and the game was deadlocked for a while afterwards. However, the D-Rocks continued to attack from start to finish.

29 minutes of the first half:

The D-Rocks FWs dominated the game at set pieces, launching a number of successive attacks and gradually closing in on the opposition’s in-goal. Here, LO ERASMUS dragged one of the opposition defenders behind him and scored a try right in the middle. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 21-0.

When the home team D-Rocks scored a try, the D-Rocks cheerleaders performed a joyous dance, as shown in the photo above.

40 minutes of the first half:

It looked like it was going to end in a one-sided D-Rocks victory, but the Shuttles gained control of the ball and pushed deep into enemy territory when D-Rocks’ FL SHIGEMATSU was temporarily sent off for an infringement. Here, the Shuttles secured the ball from a lineout on their own ball, and the Shuttles developed from the pack and the ball was passed from CTB MATAVESI to WTB SAITO, who scored a try just under the goal posts. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 21-7.

Also. Towards the end of the first half, D-Rocks prop TAKEUCHI committed an infringement and was temporarily sent off for 10 minutes. This meant that D-Rocks were without two of their frontrunners at the start of the second half, giving the Shuttles a chance to get back into the game. Expectations are high for a second half turnaround.

At this point, it was half-time. The match venue, Koto Athletics Stadium, is a short distance from Haneda Airport, and passenger planes passed overhead several times during the match.

Now it’s time for the second half to begin.

4 minutes into the second half:

With D-ROCKS temporarily down to two retired players, it was time for the SHUTTLES to take advantage of the game. However, despite this handicap, D-ROCKS showed their strength in the local battles. Particularly noticeable was the ability of the D-ROCKS backs players to break through. The individual skills of FB YASUDA were particularly impressive: when the SHUTTLES kicked deep into enemy territory, FB YASUDA was able to get past five or six men and quickly get in front of the goal. The D-ROCKS players are big compared to the SHUTTLES players, so when they accelerated and got the ball, the SHUTTLES defence couldn’t stop them.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful and the score, 28-7.

8 minutes into the second half:

The SHUTTLES got their own scrum just over the enemy 10m line after an infringement by their opponents, and from there the ball went to the left. Left wing WTB NAKANO made a great run down the left line, dodging one of the opposition defenders and scoring a try on the left edge of the enemy in-goal. The conversion goal after the try failed and the score was 28-12.

D-ROCKS have many larger players compared to SHUTTLES, so they showed their strength in the contact phases of the game and used offload passing to connect the ball. However, there were many penalties throughout the game. In order to win the replacement game, they will need to reduce the number of infringements.

In response, the SHUTTLES tried to break through in the form of quickly deploying the ball before making contact in attack. When this attack was successful and the ball was connected to the WTB, the crowd was captivated by several tricky moves that came into play along the way. It was a very well-designed attack. However, against the D-ROCKS, the defence did not work and allowed several decisive breakthroughs.

26 minutes of the second half:

In the second half, the SHUTTLES’ defenders started to function, preventing the D-ROCKS from making significant gains. With the game now stalemated and the score stuck, D-ROCKS were able to force a foul on their opponents in front of the opposition goal, where they opted to go for a PG. This was scored by SO CRIPPS, making the score 31-12.

This was the final score, and D-ROCKS beat SHUTTLES to take the first round of the play-offs, and will now play HONDA HEAT for the Division 2 title in the second round on 22 Apr.

And the SHUTTLES were denied by two consecutive no-win tries early in the match, which proved to be the deciding factor. However, if they show defensive tenacity in the second half, they could turn the tables in the replacement round. We are now looking forward to the changeover game.

After the match, the D-ROCKS players who were not in the game today saw us off as we left the stadium.

This is former Japan national team lock Thompson LUKE. Japan national team cap=71.


World famous player Israel FOLAU. He has a cap of 73 for Australia.

I am a big fan of FOLAU and was thrilled to see him up close.


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine