RUGBY JERSEY – Kanto University Rugby 

Teikyo University vs Waseda University: the rise of the golden generation

(Written by Azul: November 26, 2023)

The RWC2023 in France ended with South Africa winning the tournament for the fourth time. Japan’s Brave Blossoms Rugby team tried to reach the final tournament for the second time, but unfortunately ended up in third place in their pool after losing to Argentina’s Los Pumas final match in the pool. Back in Japan, the Blossoms began their domestic campaign for the RWC 2027 Australia in four years’ time.

The fun part of this time of year is finding out if there are any promising players developing in the younger generation for the next four years. In case you are wondering, this year’s 19-year-olds have been dubbed the Golden Generation after their high school national team toured Ireland and went toe-to-toe with the Irish U-18s, who are regarded as the best in the world. Hence, the number of players who have secured regular places in each of the domestic universities, even as first-year students, is more conspicuous than in previous years. This season’s domestic rugby will follow such promising newcomers.

On 5 November 2023, a Kanto University Rugby match between Teikyo University (last season’s first-placed team) and Waseda University (last season’s third-placed team) took place.

Looking at the most recent results, Teikyo University has dominated Waseda. In the final of last season’s University Championships, Teikyo University won by a score of 73-20 against Waseda University. Teikyo University was so strong that there was a big gap between them and other universities. It remains to be seen whether a team that can threaten last season’s University Championship champions, Teikyo University, will emerge this season.

Every year, when I watch the University Championships, I inevitably have many opportunities to hear the school song of the winning school, Teikyo University, so I naturally learn it. It is now a prestigious name that has sent the largest number of players to the Japanese national rugby team.

And in the match of the day, most of the sports media predicted that Teikyo University would win by a huge margin.

Can last year’s University Championship runners-up Waseda University overturn this previous reputation?

Let’s take a look at the starting line-up for the day. First up is Defending Champion Teikyo University.

Teikyo University 
1Hanjiro HIRAI180cm108kg20 
2Hayate ERA171cm100kg22U-18 JAPAN
3Taro UESUGI176cm113kg21 
4Takuma MOTOHASHI193cm118kg21 
5Ryeon YOON186cm108kg22 
6Keito AOKI187cm110kg21 
7Akito OKUI177cm103kg22U-18 JAPAN
8Shuto NOBUHARA182cm100kg21U-18 JAPAN
9Kumusu LEE174cm80kg21 
10Hitaka INOUE175cm80kg22 
11Tomu TAKAMOTO182cm90kg22U-18 JAPAN
12Yoshiki OMACHI172cm82kg19U-18 JAPAN
13Yamato UEDA180cm85kg18U-18 JAPAN
14Jyunnosuke AOYAGI177cm83kg19U-18 JAPAN
15Shinya KOMURA179cm87kg21 

University champions Teikyo University have few members missing from last season, with their powerful FWs remaining largely intact. In addition, this season, two newcomers, UEDA at CTB and AOYAGI at WTB, are considered the golden generation and have been named in the starting line-up immediately.

Next is the starting line-up for last season’s University Championship runners-up, Waseda University, as follows.

Waseda University 
1Yutaro YAMAGUCHI175cm110kg19 
2Kenji SATO177cm108kg20 
3Taiga KAWASAKI171cm108kg20 
4Jingo MURATA185cm104kg21 
5Daiki IKEMOTO186cm105kg21 
6Naoto YASUTSUNE172cm98kg20 
7Hitoshi NAGASHIMA178cm96kg22 
8Kanji MATSUNUMA177m93kg19U18 Japan
9Haruta SHIMAMOTO167m71kg21 
10Daisuke ITO179cm88kg22U18 Japan
11Yoshitaka YAZAKI180cm86kg19U18,U20 Japan
12Kengo NONAKA180cm95kg20U18 ,U20Japan
13Soma OKAZAKI177cm91kg21 
14Taisei MORIYA175cm85kg21 
15Daisuke ITO179cm88kg22U18 Japan

Waseda University has changed quite a few regular members since last season. This season, SO/FB ITO has been appointed as the captain and it will be interesting to see what kind of rugby he can show us.

Waseda University also has a golden generation of first-year players in the starting line-up, with No.8 MATSUNUMA and WTB YAZAKI. I too have high expectations for their performance.

Let’s start the first half of the match.

5 minutes into the first half: Waseda University tried to hold on through attacking and a tight FW battle, but were unable to break down Teikyo’s solid defense. In response, Teikyo University took the ball in the enemy line and deployed to the right to create a numerical advantage and CTB UEDA scored a try in the middle on the right in the in-goal area. The conversion goal after the try was also successful and Teikyo University scored first. The score was 7-0 to Teikyo University. Teikyo University’s remarkable freshman CTB UEDA quickly put on a show and scored.

Teikyo dominated Waseda in set plays, especially in the scrums, and it looked like it was going to be a one-sided game for Teikyo University, as it was last season. However, Waseda, despite being pushed in the scrums, managed to secure their own ball and created opportunities for successive attacks. In contrast, Teikyo University penetrated Waseda’s defense several times and created some decisive opportunities, but at the critical moment, they made a handling error and were unable to score.

38 minutes into the first half:
After a stalemate between the two teams, it looked like the first half was going to end, but Teikyo University finally broke the deadlock.
After an infringement by Waseda University, the game resumed with a lineout in Teikyo University’s ball. Teikyo University secured the ball, and the lock YOON turned wide and scored a try right under the goal post.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and Teikyo University made the score 14-0.

44 minutes into the first half:
Waseda University was infringed after a scrum broke down as they were entering enemy territory. Teikyo University’s SO INOUE tried to kick for touch deep into the enemy territory, but due to a control error, the ball did not go off the line.

Waseda University attempted a counter attack from here, and FB ITOH kicked two short punts, succeeding in re-gaining possession both times and quickly approaching the enemy goal post. Finally, Waseda’s No.8 MATSUNUMA picked up the ball and scored a try right under the enemy goal post.

With this try at the end of the first half, Waseda University cleared away the heavy mood of the game.

The place erupted in cheers at the try, and it was clear that about 70% of the crowd on that day were Waseda fans.

My impression after the first half was that Waseda University showed a lot of tenacity against Teikyo University, the university champion, unlike last season, and I was looking forward to the second half of this match.

Waseda University was pushed by Teikyo University in the scrums and suffered a disadvantage, but put on a show with dense battles and continuous attacks. against the disadvantage in the FW, Waseda tried to counter with their traditional style of play: “development,” “close,” and “continuous. What kind of play will Waseda show in the second half? Will Teikyo University be able to show their true strength in the second half?

Let’s get the second half underway.
5 minutes into the second half:
From the start of the second half, Teikyo put on heavy pressure with their scrums and steadily advanced their position deep into enemy territory. Here, Waseda’s speedy development allowed them to once again attack deep into the opponents’ territory, but a handling error allowed the ball to drop down, and Teikyo University’s WTB TAKAMOTO picked it up and scored a try right under the goal post. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 21-7. Waseda came within a whisker of scoring a try, but a handling error cost them dearly.

13 minutes into the second half:
It would be rude to say this was unexpected, but in this game Waseda was rarely easily overtaken by Teikyo defensively, and showed some tenacious attacking. Especially in this period, Waseda connected the ball one after another and showed a series of attacks typical of Waseda.
In the end, a lineout from the right side, which resulted from a foul by Teikyo, led to a maul, and Waseda moved the maul against the powerful Teikyo University FW to score a brilliant try in the middle of the right field. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 21-14, and Waseda was again within 7 points!

18 minutes into the second half:
Perhaps sensing Waseda’s momentum in terms of ball control, Teikyo opted for a rare PG when Teikyo had a chance deep in enemy territory following a foul by their opponents. Teikyo’s SO INOUE made a steady run to put Waseda ahead by 10 points, 24-14.

28 minutes into the second half:
The close match up to this time period gave the game a good sense of urgency, making it a match worth watching. Especially after Waseda got into the enemy’s territory, they broke through at key points. Waseda’s hooker SATOH broke free of a tackle deep in the enemy camp, made a big gain, and then made an exquisite pass to the lock MURATA in front of the goal, who despite being tackled, scored a persistent try in the left corner of the enemy in-goal. The crowd gave the Waseda players the loudest cheer of the day.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and the score was 24-21, Waseda was finally within 3 points.

34 minutes into the second half:
Toward the end of the match, Teikyo’s substitutes made a noticeable impact. Waseda was unable to stop the Teikyo attack, and in the end, Teikyo flanker Okui broke through the enemy defense and scored a try in the middle of the left field in-goal area. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 31-21 in favor of Teikyo.

Teikyo continued their momentum with another try at the end of the match, making the final score 36-21.
Although Waseda University was finally pushed aside in the end, Waseda University was able to play a closer game against Teikyo, the university champion, compared to last season, which gives us high expectations for future matches in the University Championships.

We look forward to another exciting match between the two teams at the University Championships in about a month’s time.


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine


RUGBY JERSEY – September 10, Japan vs Chili

Latin America: The Passion of Chile

(Written by Azul: November 1st, 2023)

On the fourth day of our stay in France, we welcomed the main event of this tour, the first match of the Japanese national rugby team. The day before, I had taken a late-night bus back home early in the morning, so I was a little sleep-deprived, but when I woke up in the morning, I was fired up to cheer for the Japanese team.

The route to the stadium (Stadium de Toulouse),

From Hotel Viktor Yugo, take a 5-minute walk to Jean-Jaureit station, then take the metro to Barriere de Paris station.

From there, we took a free shuttle bus to the stadium. It took about 40 minutes.

After getting off the bus, we walked about 2 km. On the way, there was a checkpoint and a scary-looking policeman was checking us. Actually, I wanted to bring my beloved camera, but it seems that cameras other than smartphones were not allowed, so all photos of this tour were taken with my iPhone SE.

After walking along a long straight road and crossing a bridge, we saw the stadium on our right.

This stadium, Stadium de Toulouse, is remembered by Japanese people as the stadium where the Japanese national soccer team played its first match against Argentina when it participated in the 1998 FIFA World Cup for the first time. It was also the stadium where Japan’s rugby team played its first match against Fiji in RWC 2007. In the past, the Japanese national soccer and rugby teams lost both of these matches. This time, the national rugby team will play two matches at this stadium and will also choose Toulouse as their base camp for the duration of the tournament. Will Japan be able to make history by winning a match at this stadium?

As soon as I arrived at the stadium, there was a problem when I tried to enter the stadium. To my surprise, the barcode on my ticket had already been used and I was not allowed to enter. I had come all the way from Japan to France, and now I would not be able to see the important match? For a moment, I panicked, but just to be sure, I printed out my ticket on paper, and the barcode was read without incident. Thank goodness.

The area around the stadium was already crowded with spectators 90 minutes before kickoff. Most of the spectators were from Japan and Chile, but there were also many local French spectators.

Now, let me introduce the national teams of the two countries that will be competing this day.

First, let us introduce the only first-time entrant in RWC 2023, Chile, nicknamed Los Condores, who will be making their first RWC appearance after defeating the United States in the RWC 2023 Americas Final.

At the start of the match, the team was ranked 22nd in the world. The starting lineup for Los Condores on this day was as follows.

Los Condores
1Javier CARRASCO176cm114kg2619
2Diego ESCOBAR176cm103kg236
3Matias DITTUS181cm120kg3020
4Clemente SAAVEDRA191cm110kg2521
5Javier EISSMANN200cm118kg2520
6Martin SIGREN191cm103kg2724
7Raimundo MARTINEZ180cm102kg2310
8Alfonso ESCOBAR183cm101kg2617
9Marcelo TORREALBA170cm78kg2712
10Rodrigo FERNANDEZ184cm97kg2823
11Franco VELARDE177cm95kg2816
12Matias GARAFULIC184cm95kg2317
13Domingo SAAVEDRA181cm94kg2518
14Santiago VIDERALA179cm89kg241
15Inaki AYARZA186cm102kg2412

Los Condores won a close match in the RWC qualifying round, so if the match gets complicated until the end of the match, the upper-ranked Japanese team may be caught flat-footed.

And, above all, over 10,000 supporters from Chile came to watch the match, and their cheering will be a great help.

Next, I would like to introduce the Japanese national team, nicknamed the Brave Blossoms. At this point in time, Japan was ranked 12th in the world.

In the test match just before the start of the RWC, the team had a poor record of 1 win and 5 losses. More than 10,000 Japanese supporters came to the match venue to cheer on the Blossoms, which was as big as Chile’s. Since RWC2019 was held in their hometown, it was only natural that Japanese supporters would gather, but this was the first time that this many Japanese supporters gathered for a tournament held overseas. This shows the high expectations that Japanese people have for their home team. However, if the Brave Blossoms suffer a repeat of their previous disastrous defeats, they will lose their fans, so I hope the Brave Blossoms will show us a game with a lot of spirit.

Today’s starting lineup was as follows.

Brave Blossoms
1Keita INAGAKI186cm116kg3350
2Atsushi SAKATE180cm104kg3038
3Ji-won GU183cm117kg2926
4Amanaki SAUMAKI189cm108kg262
5Amato FAKATAVA195cm118kg284
6Michael LEITCH189cm113kg3581
7Kanji SHIMOKAWA188cm105kg233
8Jack CORNELSEN195cm110kg2817
9Yutaka NAGARE166cm75kg3135
10Rikiya MATSUDA181cm92kg2934
11Jone NAIKABULA177cm95kg295
12Ryoto NAKAMURA182cm92kg3236
13Dylan RILEY187cm102kg2615
14Kotaro MATSUSHIMA178cm88kg3052
15Semisi MASIREWA181cm93kg316

And the game kicked off at 13:00 local time.

It was Los Condores who took the lead in this match.

The Brave Blossoms had a bad habit of scoring first in the most important game of the tournament.

Chili supporters seemed to have a cheer leader for each block of the stadium, and in our block, the person in the photo above was the leader. The Japanese cheering was limited to individual cheers, and there was no set cheering song, but the Chilean supporters were superior in their leadership.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and Chile took the lead 0-7.

Enthusiastic Chilean supporters. The amount of enthusiasm of the Chilean supporters was truly amazing. Chile is also a passionate Latin American country. However,the Brave Blossoms scored tries and conversion goals in the 8th, 30th, and 44th minutes of the first half, and the score was 21-7 at the end of the first half.

Can the Brave Blossoms continue to win against Los Condores as they are ranked in the world?

The Japanese national team seemed to have changed their defensive system since the test match before the start of the RWC. Instead of having a thick defensive perimeter around the densely packed field, they have changed to a single line of defense across the field. This left the defense right next to the scrums and rucks thin, which was repeatedly breached by the Los Condores halves.

Could Brave Blossoms fill this defensive hole?

The second half began.

It was again Los Condores who scored first in the second half.

8 minutes into the second half, Los Condores’ No. 8 ESCOBAR scored a try in the middle of the left field.

The conversion goal after the try failed, but the score was 21-12, and Los Condores was in the mood to catch up.

The Chilean supporters, who had been silent for some time, began to sing a chorus of cheering songs again.

The supporters stood up and began to sing loudly.

But it must be a good feeling to cheer this loudly. Personally, it reminded me of the first match of the Japanese national soccer team in the 1998 FIFA World Cup. I

It is already a great feeling when your country participates in the dream stage of the World Cup for the first time and scores a point.

However, in the second half, Brave Blossoms scored three tries and a conversion goal in the 13th, 31st, and 39th minutes of the second half against a tiring Los Condores team, to win the match 42-12.

Los Condores lost, but left their mark in their first RWC appearance. They are expected to do well in the future.

I coudn’t hide my sadness at the thought that next day would be the end of my week-long tour of France. These were probably the most enjoyable days of my life so far.

But the RWC will be held again in four years, and I am looking forward to that.

Next time, if I can, I’d like to have enough funds to stay in the host city from start to finish…I’ll need about 2 million yen.

I’ll also buy a lottery ticket.

After the games, I went back to the city of Toulouse, but I noticed that many stores are not open on Sundays in France. It was so quiet that the liveliness of weekdays was a lie. However, in such a town, I found Mr. Tsuchida, the president of the Japan Rugby Football Union. He seemed to have come to watch the Japan national team’s game and to welcome with the Japanese supporters who had arrived in the area.

After staying in Toulouse for a few days, I found out that the price of a meal at a regular restaurant was quite expensive, but pizza was reasonable price.

Beer and pizza together cost only about 15 euros. It was almost the same price as eating in Japan.

I am sorry to leave Toulouse, but before going back to Japan, I dropped by Matabio station, which holds many memories for us.

Goodbye Toulouse, I will come again someday. Thank you for all the fun memories.

On September 12, the last day of my stay, I took a cab to Blagnac airport at 4:30 in the morning due to a change of departure time. The plane departed at 6:00 am. Of course, the sun had not yet risen. We arrived at CDG airport in Paris in a little over an hour.

The sun finally came up when we arrived in Paris. We had a long layover from here, and the Cathay Pacific Airlines flight from Paris to Hong Kong was scheduled to depart a little after 12;00. Since I had some spare time, I bought some souvenirs in the CDG airport.

Chocolates, which are typical Parisian souvenirs, cost 8 euros.

This is also a typical Parisian souvenir chocolate. 10 Euro.

A slightly smaller sized chocolate. 5 euros.

A classic Parisian souvenir. Macarons. 10 euros. The picture shows only the bag, but the macaroons that my daughter asked for were purchased at the duty free store in the airport and cost 40 euros. The difference in price is quite a big difference.

Now it is time to leave France for Japan. However, it was a long journey from here. Cathay Pacific Airlines is a Chinese airline, so they do not have an embargo on Russian oil, so the ticket was cheaper. Compared to Japanese and European airlines, tickets were 70,000 to 100,000 yen cheaper. Furthermore, the flight route went through the Chinese continent, so we flew over the Gobi Desert and the disputed Black Sea. Finally, we arrived at Hong Kong, our final transit point, at almost 7:00 a.m. the next day.

After two hours in Hong Kong, we departed for Japan at 9:00 a.m. We did not have much time to spare, but we were able to fly to the airport in Hong Kong. Although we did not have much time, we had a light meal at the Hong Kong airport.

Then, we boarded a plane from Hong Kong Airport to Narita, Japan, departing almost as scheduled. September is typhoon season in Japan, so we expected some accidents before departure, but we were happy to return home safely.

We arrived safely at Narita Airport in Japan at 14:30 on September 12, 2023. I would like to take my family to France next time as it gave me a lot of good memories.

Au Revoir,France.


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine


RUGBY JERSEY – September 9 England vs Argentina

Latin America: The Passion of the World

(Written by Azul: October 18,2023)

With the afterglow of the spectacular opening of the RWC 2023 in France the day before, we traveled from Toulouse to Marseille to watch England vs Argentina, the hot card of Group D. The distance was 319 km, so we took the train this time.

The photo above shows the Mataviot station in Toulouse, the gateway to the train.

We were a little happy to be on the famous French high-speed train, TGV, for the first time. However, the TGV does not run on a dedicated line like the Shinkansen in Japan, but on a conventional line, so it was not so fast. The maximum speed is said to be over 300 km/h, but the train we boarded was an older model, and it took 4 hours to travel 319 km, so the speed was on par with Japanese express trains.

Another difference from Japanese stations is that there were no ticket gates. We had obtained our tickets to Marseille in advance via the Internet, so there was a confirmation after we boarded the train. As Marseille neared, the sea came into view, and we were impressed by the view of the resort in the south of France, which we had longed for in the past.

At around 12:30, we arrived at Marseille, where the venue for today’s match, Stade de Marseille, is located.

Supporters from various countries were gathering at Saint-Charles station here in Marseille, as the RWC match was finally going to be held. Kick-off time is 21:00, so we decided to spend the time until the match starts by sightseeing in Marseille.

The Saint-Charles train station was opened in 1848 and has a history of more than 170 years. The history of Marseille is said to have begun with the opening of the port here around 600 B.C., making it a cosmopolitan city with a long history that predates the founding of France and even the Roman Empire.

Although it is now September, it is still summer. The temperature was over 30 degrees Celsius, and we were afraid of heat stroke if we stayed in the sun all day. So we walked toward the sea in the port city of Marseille.

Here in Marseille, not only the group league games but also the two final tournaments of RWC2023 will be held.

On the way to the port, we saw one of the tourist attractions of Marseille, the Arc de Triomphe (also known as the Aix Gate).

The Arc de Triomphe in Marseille was built in 1839, three years after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris was constructed.

Then, on a small hill overlooking the harbor, I saw Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, another tourist attraction in Marseille.

We arrived at the port of Marseille after a 15-minute walk from the station. As expected of an international port town, three large cruise ships were docked there.

Since we were so close to the sea, we decided to join the landing tour on If Island, which is a standard sightseeing tour in Marseille. The price was 6 euros, which was a good deal considering the content of the tour. We were able to board the boat right away at the right time, and the boat departed at 13:30.

Marseille is indeed a port city. There was a rich international atmosphere.

There were many people in line, but the cabins were empty. Many tourists seemed to be enjoying the cruise on the deck of the ship.

We arrived at If Island in less than 30 minutes after boarding the ship.

This island is a prison island that was once used to incarcerate many political prisoners and was depicted as the setting of the novel “Le Conte de Monte Cristo” by the great writer Dumas.

And the Castle of If, located here, is the prison.

Walking through the prison, I found various types of prisons. Those with serious crimes were chained in rooms with almost no windows, and as their crimes became less serious, the windows for lighting became larger and larger. I imagine that it was difficult to escape from the prison because it was almost an isolated island in the middle of the sea.

The photo above shows a window of a prison cell of a political prisoner who was probably convicted of a serious crime. This is the only window.

The former prison island is now a standard tourist attraction and is visited by many tourists every day.

There was also a restaurant and souvenir store on If Island. I bought a folding umbrella here as a souvenir.

After the island tour, I returned to Marseille.

Around 3:00 p.m., I walked around the port of Marseille and found the RWC2023 Fun Zone.

There were RWC2023 commemorative goods, snacks, and beer for sale.

We also had a late lunch here. Beer was 10 euros and a dish of fried potatoes and meat was 5 euros. There were many supporters of Argentina and England, who had matches on that day.

It was great to come to France, cruise in Marseille, have a nice meal, and watch the RWC 2023 match.

Then, around 4:00 p.m., we decided to go to the stadium anyway.

In Marseille, I saw many Argentine supporters. I felt excited about the match.

It took about 10 minutes from Saint-Charles station in Marseille to the stadium by subway.

There were many supporters gathered around the stadium waiting for the game to start. The number of supporters was about the same between England and Argentina, but I was overwhelmed by the passion of the Argentine supporters. They sang everywhere around the venue, and it was just like an Argentine carnival.

** Rugby goods I bought in France 4 **

This is a commemorative scarf I bought at the official RWC2023 store in front of the stadium. I am not sure if my memory is correct, but I think it cost 39 euros. It has the date of the match and the opposing country woven into it.

Finally, 90 minutes before kickoff, we were able to enter the stadium.

Stade de Marseille is the second largest stadium in the tournament with a capacity of 67,847. I bought my ticket on a resale site, and since I had no other choice, I bought a category 1 ticket, which cost 300 euros. Good seats indeed.

There was an English TV crew in front of our seats, talking with the English players.

Kick-off time was approaching. As of September 9, the day of the match, the England team was ranked 8th in the world. The Argentine national team was ranked 6th in the world, and the pre-match prediction on sports TV was in favor of Argentina. In the most recent test match, Argentina beat England by a narrow margin. In addition, England captain Farrell was suspended for the big match after being shown a red card for a foul in the match before the RWC 2023 began.

This is a very tough situation for the England team.

The following is the starting member of England.

1Ellice Genge186cm120kg2853
2Jamie GEORGE181cm108kg3278
3Dan COLE188cm123kg36103
4Maro ITOJE195cm115kg2868
5Ollie CHESSUM200cm118kg2316
6Courtney LAWES201cm115kg28101
7Tom CURRY185cm110kg2546
8Ben EARL186cm102kg2523
9Alex MITCHELL180cm80kg268
10George FORD178cm84kg3085
11Elliot DALY179cm83kg3060
12Manu TUILAGI179cm83kg3254
13Joe MARCHANT183cm89kg2716
14Jonny MAY187cm90kg3373
15Freddie STEWARD196cm107kg2219

The two countries also met in RWC 2019, with England winning outright. Will Argentina be humiliated?

Argentina will be looking for revenge after being eliminated from the qualifying pool in the last tournament.

The following is the starting member of Argentina.

1Thomas Gallo176cm105kg2418
2Julián Montoya183cm113kg3164
3Francisco Gomez Kodela184cm121kg3832
4Matias Alemanno198cm113kg3166
5Tomas Lavanini201cm130kg3057
6Pablo Matera193cm98kg3096
7Marcos Kremer195cm114kg2633
8Juan Martin Gonzalez191m101kg2225
9Gonzalo Bertranou174m72kg2951
10Santiago Carreras183cm88kg2513
11Mateo Carreras173cm84kg2311
12Santiago Chocobares188cm95kg2415
13Lucio Cinti190cm90kg231
14Emiliano Boffelli192cm94kg2841
15Juan Cruz Mallia182cm88kg2715

The game kicked off at 21:00.

3 minutes into the first half, England flanker CURRY was shown a red card for a dangerous tackle and was sent off. This meant that England was outnumbered for most of the match. Argentina’s supporters suddenly became very enthusiastic and started cheering loudly. At this point, the situation was the exact opposite of the previous tournament, and I predicted a big win for Argentina.

The England standoff for this match was George Ford. This player, who was mainly a reserve under the previous coach, was chosen to be England’s leader under the new coach. When he saw that Argentina’s defense was strong, he switched to a tactic of kicking instead of aiming for tries, and scored one PG and three DGs in a row in the first half, pulling the game into England’s favor at once.

Ford’s 3 DGs in the first half were a god-like performance that will go down in the history of the World Cup. I had never seen such a game before.

PG success in the first 10 minutes.

Successful DGs in the 27th, 31st, and 37th minutes of the first half. One of them was scored from near the halfway point of the ground, and I wondered if Ford, and England, had a goddess of victory on their side.

The England supporters could no longer stop screaming. Until the first 10 minutes of the first half, the venue was a place of celebration for Argentine supporters, but England’s SO Ford’s performance silenced them.

The first half ended with England leading by a score of 12-3. As expected, DGs have a great talent. It is a very difficult move, and the crowd cheered loudly when it was executed.

In the second half, Argentina took advantage of having one more player, and could they make a comeback?

The second half began, but Argentina fell prey to England’s tactics and repeatedly committed infractions in enemy territory. PGs in the 6th, 14th, 19th, 26th, and 35th minutes of the second half finally made the score 27-3, and the game was deadlocked.

The English supporters, who had looked like bitches at the start of the match, looked back at the Argentine supporters and said, “Look at us, we’ve won the game!

The hero of the day, England’s SO George. Ford. It was a godlike performance.

In the end, Argentina showed their determination by scoring one try at the end of the match, but it was no more than a stone’s throw. Before the end of the match, many Argentine supporters left their seats and went home.

England supporters were happy to see the match end. This match was said to be the biggest climax of Pool D, so England got a step ahead to advance to the final tournament.

When the game ended at 23:00, we rushed back to Saint-Charles station. It was very difficult to get on the train because more than 60,000 spectators were concentrated at the metro station. We had originally planned to stay overnight in Marseille after the match, but we had to give up the plan because the hotel price in Marseille had risen to seven times the price of the original plan. Therefore, we decided to take a late night bus back to Toulouse.

The price was 670 euros per night if we stayed in Marseille, but it was only 60 euros per night if we took the midnight bus.

After returning to the hotel, I had a good night’s sleep, and finally I was going to watch a game of the Japanese national team.

**Rugby goods I bought in France 5 **

I bought this T-shirt at the department store in front of the stadium in Marseille. It was 35 euros. It is not an official product of RWC2023, but I liked the design, so I bought it.


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine


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