I have finally managed to get up-to-date with Ian McDonnell’s ‘RiJ’ newsletter. No.40 is the very latest and just arrived today and covers the weekend’s matches in Japan.
RiJ covers the Japanese team tour of Europe in 1973. There was a bye round in the Top league and an overview of NEC is covered.
Ian McDonnell lives and works in Japan. He can be contacted at email@example.com
- Japan Test Match & Player History Project: Japan tour to Wales, England and France, with the Welsh section being featured.
- Japan Rugby Top League 2012-13: Bye round.
- Top League Team Profile: NEC
The Japan Test Match & Player History Project
For nine years now RiJ has been documenting Japanese rugby across various levels of the game. More recently, however, RiJ has recognised the need to accurately document the history of Japanese test match rugby and the players that have represented Japan down through the years. With this in mind, RiJ has embarked on a project to write the history of Japanese international rugby, detail every test that Japan has played and profile every player that has represented Japan.
Japan Tour to Wales, England and France 1973
In September and October 1973 Japan toured Wales, England and France playing eleven games on tour winning two and losing nine. Wales did not accord test status to the test against Japan and thus caps were not awarded with the team playing as Wales XV. Japan accorded the match against Wales test status and awarded caps. In England, Japan played England U23s according test match status and caps to the match. In the test against France, both France and Japan accorded the game test status and awarded caps.
Japan started their tour to Europe in the autumn of 1973 with three relatively close losses to welsh regional sides East Glamorgan, Monmouthshire and West Glamorgan before chalking up their first win on tour when they beat Western Counties 12-9 in Llanelli.
The fifth tour game was the test against Wales XV at the Cardiff Arms Park in Cardiff on Saturday, 06 October 1973 which was Test No.38 and Japan Game No.90. After the five year tenure of Tetsunosuke Onishi as head coach from 1967 to 1971, Hitoshi Oka was in charge for the three tests in 1972. However, the death of a rugby player under his care at Doshisha University at summer camp at Sugadaira in August 1973 forced Oka to step down as national coach for this tour. Although Oka would have three more stints as coach with five tests in 1975, two tests on the end of year tour of France in 1985 and two more tests on the tour of Scotland and England in 1986, it was Hisashi Yokoi that took the Japan team to Europe in 1973. Yokoi would later on coach Japan in one test against France XV in Tokyo in 1978 and two more tests against the visiting England XV in 1979 but it left him with the unenviable record of six losses from six tests in charge, albeit against much stronger European oppositions.
With Yokoi becoming Japan coach number ten, it also created the interesting situation whereby two brothers acted as head coach and captain of Japan. Inside centre Akira Yokoi as Japan captain number twenty-one retained the captaincy duties for the tour to team up in partnership with his older brother Hisashi as coach.
In this test against Wales XV, right wing Tadayuki Ito was the most experienced Japanese player at international level with 15 caps, while Yokoi and left wing Yoshihiro Sakata each had 14 caps followed by five-eighth Tadamasa Kamohara with 13 caps and flanker Yoshiaki Izawa with 11 caps. However, as Japan had not played a test since beating Hong Kong in November 1972, there were also a number of new faces in the starting line-up in Cardiff. There was a total of six test debutants including hooker Kazumi Ohigashi, tighthead prop Kazuhito Yoshino, Toyota flanker Hideo Akama, halfback Hiroaki Shukuzawa, 20-year-old Waseda University centre Masaru Fujiwara and fullback Iwao Yamamoto with Shukuzawa and Yamamoto both going on to coach the national side in the future.
This was not just a case of Japan playing a Welsh side for the first time, but it was also played at the heart of Welsh rugby at the Cardiff Arms Park in front of 35,000 fans against a XV that included some of the greatest names in Welsh rugby. Legendary players such as fullback J.P.R. Williams, wing Gerald Davies, No8 Mervyn Davies, five-eighth Phil Bennett graced the field against the Japanese at a time when welsh rugby was at its zenith in power and mystique.
It is thus not all that surprising that the Wales XV ran in eleven tries to two to overwhelm their guests 62-14. Bennett led the way with two tries and nine conversions while centre Keith Hughes also picked up a double with JPR Williams, wing John Williams and flanker and captain John Taylor also among the try scorers. Ito managed to cross the Welsh whitewash twice for Japan while Yamamoto landed two penalties in what would be his first and last test as a player although he would coach Japan in nine tests in the future.
Game 1: East Glamorgan 23 d Japan 11, 22 September 1973, Penygraig. (Japan Game Number 86)
Game 2: Monmouthshire 26 d Japan 16, 26 September 1973, Pontypool Park, Pontypool. (Japan Game Number 87)
Game 3: West Glamorgan 19 d Japan 6, 29 September 1973, The Gnoll, Neath. (Japan Game Number 88)
Game 4: Japan 12 d Western Counties (Wales) 9, 2 October 1973, Stradey Park, Llanelli. (Japan Game Number 89)
Wales XV 62 – Japan 14. Saturday, 06 October 1973, Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff. (Test No.38, Japan Game No.90)
Japan Rugby Top League 2012-13
Top League had a bye over the weekend of 29-30 September 2012.
Top League Profiles 2012-13
(4) NEC Green Rockets
2012-13 Introduction: Last season (2011-12) NEC finished fourth on the final table to make the play-off semi-finals for the first time. However, Suntory, Panasonic and Toshiba were head and shoulders above the rest of the league last season and NEC were well beaten Suntory in the play-off semi-finals and then by Panasonic in the National Championship semi-finals.
However, NEC had their best season in many years and a lot of that success could be put down to one man: giant Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo. The larger than life Fijian international at 195cm and 129kg run in an impressive seven of the ten tries scored by NEC in their win over Canon in the National Championship bettering his six try performance against Honda in the Top League rounds. Not surprisingly, Nadolo was the leading try scorer in Top League last season and he will again be almost impossible to stop this year. Nevertheless, NEC are far from a one man show and the club is gradually rebuilding with a lot of young talent coming through after some lean years over recent times. One of the up and coming stars in his debut season in the senior ranks last year was five-eighth Yu Tamura. His potential did not go unnoticed either as he went on to national honours under Eddie Jones in the spring. Other rising players include flanker Tsuyoshi Murata and No8 Makoto Tosa. Other established players at NEC include Ryota Asano and Nili Latu in the forwards and Anthony Tuitavake and wing Koichiro Kubota in the backs.
Established: NEC (Nippon Denki Kabushiki geisha) are another of the relatively newer clubs in Top League having only been established in 1985 with the team based in the NEC factory complex in Abiko city in north-western Chiba prefecture. The green in Green Rockets refers to the grass of the playing fields upon which NEC battles. While the rocket is the image of a fast and powerful NEC leading the way in the 21st century. NEC also have in their sports stable the Blue Rockets (men’s volleyball team) and the Red Rockets (women’s volleyball team).
In 2011-12 NEC finished fourth on the table and qualified for the play-offs for the first time. In 2010-11 NEC finished sixth on the final Top League table after they slumped to tenth in 2009-10. NEC had relatively disappointing 2008-9, 2007-8 and 2006-7 seasons by their standards finishing fifth, sixth and seventh on the table respectively. However, apart from these seasons, the club has been very successful over recent years.
The team slogan for 2012-13 is “No Limit!”.
The Company: The company itself was founded in 1899 and was known in English as Nippon Electric Company, Limited until it was re-branded as NEC Corporation in 1983. NEC is an electrical, electronics and IT company. See www.nec.co.jp.
Top League – none.
From the 2003-4 season to the 2005-6 season, Top League consisted of 12 teams and the team that finished on top of the table claimed the title. In the 2006-7 season, Top League was increased to 14 teams with the top four finishers on the ladder progressing to the Microsoft Cup, the play-off series to determine the overall Top League champion. From the 2009-10 season, the Microsoft company did not renew their naming rights sponsorship and so the finals series became known as the Top League Play-off Tournament.
2011-12 (14 teams): 4th on table on 41 points with 8 wins and 5 losses. Lost to Suntory 56-8 in play-off semi-finals.
2010-11 (14 teams): 6th on table on 34 points with 7 wins and 6 losses.
2009-10 (14 teams): 10th on table on 25 points with 4 wins and 9 losses.
2008-9 (14 teams): 5th on table on 37 points with 8 wins and 5 losses.
2007-8 (14 teams): 6th on table on 42 points with 9 wins and 4 losses.
2006-7 (14 teams): 7th on table on 38 points with 7 wins and 6 losses.
2005-6 (12 teams): 3rd on table on 41 points with 9 wins and 2 losses.
2004-5 (12 teams): 3rd on table on 44 points with 9 wins and 2 losses.
2003-4 (12 teams): 6th on table on 27 points with 5 wins, 2 draws and 4 losses.
Microsoft Cup – (as a standalone Cup 2004-2006) once (2004).
From 2004 to 2006 the Microsoft Cup was a separate knock-out tournament for the top 8 finishers in Top League. From 2007 the Microsoft Cup acted as the play-off finals series to determine the overall Top League champion with the top four finishers on the Top League ladder progressing to the Microsoft Cup. The Microsoft company did not renew their naming rights sponsorship for the 2009-10 Top League season and so the 2010 finals series became known as the Top League Play-off Tournament.
2006: beat Toyota 17-12 in first round & knocked out by Toshiba 23-10 in semi-finals.
2005: knocked out by Kobe 51-16 in first round.
2004: Champions. Defeated Kobe 34-10 in SF, Suntory 32-5 in QF and Toshiba 24-19 in final.
National Championship –3 times (2006 (joint champions with Toshiba after final drawn at 6-all), 2005 and 2002).
After 22 teams participated in the 2004 National Championship it was reduced to 8 teams for 2005 consisting of the top four Top League sides, the top two universities, the top challenger from lower divisions and the top club side. In 2009 the number of teams was increased to ten with two additional Top League sides.
For 2010 the Wildcard Tournament was introduced to the National Championship for the Top League sides that finished fifth to tenth on the final table. In 2011 these six sides were: Kobe (fifth on 36 points), NEC (sixth on 34 points), Ricoh (seventh on 32 points), Sanix (eighth on 32 points), Kintetsu (ninth on 31 points) and Coca-Cola (tenth on 28 points). The teams played off over two weekends with Kobe and Ricoh winning the right to participate in the NC as the final two Top League participants. In 2012 the Wildcard Tournament was abbreviated to the four teams that finished fifth to eighth with fifth placed Kintetsu Liners playing eighth placed Yamaha Jubilo and sixth placed Kobe Steelers playing seventh placed Ricoh Black Rams. Kobe beat Ricoh 32-19 and Yamaha beat Kintetsu 17-15 with the winners thus qualifying for the up-coming 49th National Championship.
2012 (49th NC - 10 teams): Beat Kobe 17-10 in 1st round, Canon 62-19 in 2nd round and lost to Panasonic 41-3 in semi-finals.
2011 (48th NC - 10 teams): Beat Ricoh 38-33 in Wildcard Tournament to qualify. Lost to Toshiba 21-10 in first round.
2010 (47th NC - 10 teams): Beat Sanix 33-5 and Kubota 22-21 in Wildcard Tournament to qualify for NC. Drew with Suntory 10-all in first round but won on lottery ballot, beat Teikyo Uni. 38-5 in QFs then lost to Sanyo 25-16 in SFs.
2009 (46th NC - 10 teams): Beat Kobe 30-29 in first round, then lost to Ricoh 24-23 in second round.
2008 (45th NC - 8 teams): DNQ as only top 4 TL teams qualified.
2007 (44th NC - 8 teams): DNQ as only top 4 TL teams qualified.
2006 (43rd NC - 8 teams): Joint Champions. Beat Coca-Cola 69-24 in QFs & Sanyo 24-16 in SFs. Drew the final 6-all with Toshiba.
2005 (42nd NC - 8 teams): Champions. Beat Yamaha 24-13 in SFs, Sanix 55-21 in QFs & Toyota 17-13 in final.
2004 (41st NC - 22 teams): Beat KGU 43-13, Suntory 34-27 in QFs & lost 34-29 to Kobe in SFs.
Corporate Championship – none. The Corporate Championship started in 1949 and ended with the 55th Corporate Championship in 2003 as a consequence of the introduction of Top League as the national corporate league in the 2003-4 season.
Colours: dark green and white hooped jersey, dark green shorts and socks. The alternative strip is white.
Style of Play: Consistency was rewarded with the club’s first major title coming in the form of National Championship in 2002 and then again in 2005 and 2006 (The 2006 title was shared with Toshiba when the final was drawn 6-all). This was complemented by winning the inaugural Microsoft Cup in 2004. NEC finished sixth in the inaugural Top League season then managed third place in the following two seasons before dropping to seventh in 2006-7, sixth in 2007-8, fifth in 2008-9. In the 2009-10 season NEC finished tenth after losing nine of their ten opening games. They then improved in 2010-11 rising to sixth place. In 2011-12, NEC finished fourth on the table, though admittedly a long way behind Suntory, Panasonic and Toshiba, to make the Top League play-offs for the first time.
NEC are continuing through something of a generational change at the moment with a significant number of their mainstay players over the Top League era reaching the end of their careers or moving on. For instance, Jaco van der Westhuyzen returned to South Africa at the end of the 2009-10 season after six years with the club while former club and national captain Takuro Miuchi moved to NTT Docomo at the end of the 2009-10 season after 11 years with the Rockets.
For 2012-13, the team is looking to strike a balance between young up and coming players, the veteran players in the squad and also their overseas contingent as they try to shape a strong team for the future and get back to the standard they were at six or seven years ago. In all likelihood, NEC will not be up there competing for the Top League title this season and they will have a lot of competition for a place in the top four from sides like Kobe Yamaha and Kintetsu, but the club is rebuilding and over the long term they have to map out a way to get back to the top. The challenge is there for NEC in the short term and this season will be a step along the long path of reinventing themselves and creating a squad that can eventually compete with the best.
Players to Watch: Simply put, the two players to watch at NEC in the 2012-13 season are Nemani Nadolo and Yu Tamura. Nadolo, the giant Fijian wing at 195cm and 125kg headed the try scorers list last season with 19 tries, equalling the record set by Sanyo wing Tomoki Kitagawa in the 2006-7 season and if he gets the ball in space he is almost unstoppable. The goal kicking Tamura played his rookie season in the senior ranks last season at five-eighth and inside centre and ended up catching the eye of new national coach Eddie Jones picking up three caps for Japan during the Asian Five Nations 2012.
Elsewhere though, in the forwards, a lot of inspiration will again come from flanker Nili Latu, now in his sixth season with NEC. However, flanker Ryota Asano will also have to play at his best this season with the added responsibilities of the captaincy. Some of the mainstays of the NEC pack include prop Yuta Inose and veteran lock Tomoo Yasuda but a number of younger players continue their rise at the club including flanker Tsuyoshi Murata who was a fringe national player this spring, No8 Makoto Tosa who is in his fourth season with the club after spending time at Oxford and he has the added responsibility of being vice-captain in 2012-13 while flanker Taro Kenjo is another one to keep an eye on this year.
In the backs, Cameron McIntyre from the Crusaders and Tamura form a solid combination at No.10 and No.12 and they will be effective in getting the backs going. In the midfield, Tsutomu Sakuraya and Takeshi Matsuo now have considerable experience while further out in the backs are the talents of Koichi Ohigashi, who can play halfback as well as wing or fullback, exciting fullback Keiji Takei and speedy wing Koichiro Kubota out wide. The inclusion of former All Black centre Anthony Tuitavake is a boost in the firepower of the NEC backs while Nadolo will be looking to make an impact again this season.
Cap holders for Japan in the current squad: (6)
In 2012, in the HSBC A5N series, NEC were represented by flanker Tsuyoshi Murata and five-eighth Yu Tamura. At the end of the day, Murata remains uncapped and was not part of any of the XXIIs over all four tests, but Tamura became part of the new No.10 and No.12 combination with Kosei Ono (Suntory) and Harumichi Tatekawa (Kubota) under new head coach Eddie Jones. In the IRB PNC series, NEC were represented by Tamura, but Jones bolstered his midfield with the inclusion of Ryan Nicholas (Suntory) to counter the bigger islanders leaving him out of the XXIIs in all three tests.
At the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, NEC were not represented.
In 2011, in the HSBC A5N and the IRB PNC series, NEC were not represented. In the two warm-up tests for the 2011 RWC against Italy (away) and the USA (home), NEC were not represented.
In 2010, in the HSBC A5N and ANZ PNC series, NEC were not represented. In the home autumn tests against Samoa and Russia, NEC were represented by utility back Bryce Robins who came on from the bench against Russia and started as five-eighth against Russia.
In 2009, in the A5N and the PNC series, NEC were represented by utility back Bryce Robins who unfortunately was injured in the very first test of the season against Kazakhstan forcing him out of the squad for the rest of the spring season. In the two home tests against Canada in November 2009, NEC were not represented.
In 2008, In the inaugural Asian Five Nations tournament, NEC supplied prop Yuta Inose who played in two of the four tests, lock Taira Sato (3 tests) and national captain and No8 Takuro Miuchi. In the backs, Bryce Robins also claimed NEC allegiance after moving across from Ricoh at the completion of the 2007-8 season. In the Pacific Nations Cup, NEC were represented by hooker Naonori Mizuyama who played in three of the five tests from the bench, Miuchi and Robins. In the two home tests against the USA in November 2008, hooker Mizuyama and utility back Robins represented NEC. Mizuyama left NEC at the end of the 2008-9 season to join NTT Docomo. The two tests against the USA also saw a generational change in the captaincy of the Japan side with long-term captain Miuchi making way for Takashi Kikutani from Toyota. The good news for NEC over the 2008 international season was the debuts of three players, Yuta Inose, Taira Sato and Naonori Mizuyama. The bad news was the fact that regulars test starters over recent seasons, lock Takanori Kumagae, five-eighth Eiji Ando, backrower Ryota Asano and utility back Koichi Ohigashi were not considered for national selection.
At the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France NEC was represented by national captain and No8 Takuro Miuchi and lock Takanori Kumagae. Back rower Ryota Asano was also called into the squad as a replacement for the injured Takamichi Sasaki. Five-eighth Eiji Ando was also an integral part of the pre-RWC squad until a serious knee injury in the warm-up game against Portugal ruled him out. Prop Yuta Inose was in France as part of the back-up squad and although not needed, the experience of the RWC environment will make him a more rounded player.
Ryota ASANO (437) 32 y/o, 22 caps at flanker.
Koichi OHIGASHI (444) 32 y/o, 7 caps at halfback/wing.
Keiji TAKEI (452) 32 y/o, 6 caps at wing/fullback.
Yuta INOSE (508) 30 y/o, 6 caps at prop.
Koichiro KUBOTA (455) 33 y/o, 3 caps at wing.
Yu TAMURA (TBC) 23 y/o, 3 caps at five-eighth/inside centre.
Takanori KUMAGAE (441) 34 y/o, 26 caps at lock. Retired at the end of the 2011-12 season.
Eiji ANDO (479) 30 y/o, 13 caps at five-eighth. Moved to Mitsubishi Sagamihara from 2012-13 season.
The Coach: Greg Cooper (10/06/1965, 47) is the new head coach at NEC for the 2011-12 season after acting as coaching coordinator last season. Cooper played seven tests for the All Blacks at fullback between 1986 and 1992 and played his provincial rugby with Auckland and Otago. After his playing days, Cooper had various coaching roles with the Blues and the Highlanders including head coach with the latter in 2008 while he has also coached U21 New Zealand. He was coaching director at NEC from the 2008-9 season till last season. Ben Hurling as an assistant coach and Keith Roberts as conditioning coach.
Cooper took over from Kaname Okayama who was head coach the past three seasons. Tadashi Hosoya was head coach in 2008-9 while Hosoya and Allan Pollock shared the duties in 2007-8. Teruyoshi Takaiwa was coach for five straight seasons up to the end of 2006-7. Former Meiji University, Toyota and Japan prop Tsukasa Takada was the inaugural NEC coach in 1985.
The Captain: Flanker Ryota Asano is the new captain at NEC for the 2012-13 season. In fact, this is the second coming for Asano as captain as he previous had the role for three seasons from 2005-6 to 2007-8. The 33-year-old Asano is in his eleventh season with the club.
Prior to Asano, former Tongan captain and flanker Nili Latu was captain for two seasons in 2011-12 and 2010-11. He took over from lock Takanori Kumagae (retired at the end of the 2011-12 season) who was skipper in the two seasons 2009-10 and 2008-9. No8 Takuro Miuchi (moved to NTT Docomo at end of 2009-10 season) was the captain of NEC in the first two seasons of Top League in 2004-5 and 2003-4.
Hottie LOUW (RSA) 36 y/o (02/03/1976), lock, 198/115, 7 caps for Springboks, S12/14 Stormers and Bulls, he played with Ricoh in the 2009-10 and 2010-11seasons, after one year with club.
Takanori KUMAGAE (441) 34 y/o (31/05/1978), 26 caps at lock. Onto coaching staff after 11 years with club.
Deen BUDD (NZL), 26 y/o, (31/07/1986), lock, 195/106, SR Blues, NPC Auckland, Northland, to Italy after one year with club.
ANH Seng-Hyuk (Korea), 29 y/o (23/03/1983), halfback, 183/85, 12 caps for Korea, Korea 7s, to NTT Docomo after 4 years with club.
Eiji ANDO (479) 30 y/o (14/05/1982), five-eighth, 173/85, 13 caps at five-eighth, to Mitsubishi Sagamihara after 7 years with club.
Yuta ONODERA, 22 y/o (29/11/1989), lock, 187/113, from Ryutsu Keizai Univ. He has represented Japan at U20 (2009) and Junior Japan (2012) levels.
Isileli VAKAUTA (Tonga/Japan), 23 y/o (09/07/1989), No8, 186/120, from Ryutsu Keizai Univ. He has represented Japan at high school level.
Hiroshi YAMASHITA, 28 y/o (15/09/1984), centre, 177/85, from Sanyo/Panasonic 2007-8 to 2011-12.
Overseas Players & Staff: (7 + 3)
Nili LATU (Tonga) 30 y/o (19/02/1982), flanker, 182/101, 6th year, S14 Hurricanes, ANC BoP, 33 caps Tonga and 6 caps Pacific Islands, Tonga Sevens.
PAK Sung-Koo (Korea), 29 y/o (22/07/1983), prop, 180/113, 3rd year, 6 caps for Korea, from Yamaha.
Anthony TUITAVAKE (NZL), 30 y/o (12/02/1982), centre, 183/96, 3rd year, 6 caps for All Blacks, NZ Sevens, S14 Blues, NPC North Harbour.
Cameron McINTYRE (NZL), 31 y/o, (03/06/1981), five-eighth, 181/90, 2nd year, SR Crusaders, NPC Canterbury.
Nemani NADOLO (FIJ), 24 y/o (31/01/1988), wing, 195/125, 2nd year, 3 caps for Fiji, Exeter (Eng) 2011, Bourgoin (Fra) 2010, Waratahs 2008-10, St Joseph’s College.
KIM Kwang-Sik (Korea), 26 y/o, (08/11/1985), prop, 183/130, 2nd year, 19 caps for Korea, from POSCO.
Isileli VAKAUTA (Tonga/Japan), 23 y/o (09/07/1989), No8, 186/120, 1st year, from Ryutsu Keizai Univ. He has represented Japan at high school level.
Greg COOPER (47), head coach.
Ben HURLING (32), assistant coach.
Keith ROBERTS (63), conditioning coach.
The 2012-13 Squad: (45) the list starts with captain and vice-captains and then continues through forwards and backs in order from props to fullbacks.
Ryota Asano (c), Nili Latu (v-c), Makoto Tosa (v-c), Tsutomu Sakuraya (v-c). Forwards: Yuta Inose, Naoto Yoshimura, Pak Sung-Koo, Kim Kwang-Sik, Takahiro Doi, Sunao Takizawa, Hikaru Tanaka, Takaharu Yamamoto, Yosuke Usui, Shin Kawamura, Tomoo Yasuda, Shigeaki Gen, Taku Hirosawa, Yuta Onodera, Ryoya Sakai, Takahisa Miyamoto, Taro Kenjo, Yoshiya Hosoda, Tsuyoshi Murata, Ken Hidaka and Isileli Vakauta. Backs: Kyohei Fujito, Tsukuru Nishida, Ryo Uchida, Tomohiro Sakurai, Takeshi Matsuo, Cameron McIntyre, Yu Tamura, Anthony Tuitavake, Shigeki Morita, Hiroshi Yamashita, Shindo Kamaike, Yosuke Morita, Koichiro Kubota, Hayato Sezaki, Koshiro Shuto, Hidefumi Yamamoto, Hiromasa Yoshihiro, Nemani Nadolo, Koichi Ohigashi and Keiji Takei. Coach: Greg Cooper (47).