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