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