Thursday, November 14, 2013


Congratulations RIJ Newsletter 10th Anniversary 2003-2013

RiJ brings the reader everything there is to know about the 54-6 win by the All Blacks over Japan while Kobe is the next TL profile.


  • Japan v New Zealand
  • Japan Top League-Window month-no games
  • Japan Rugby Top League Team Profiles 2013-14 (4) Kobelco Steelers
  • University Rugby 2013
  • Autumn Test Schedule for Japan


New Zealand 54 d Japan 6


New Zealand 54 – Tries: Charles Piutau 2, Sam Kane, Ben Smith, Richie McCaw, Jeremy Thrush, Frank Halai and Beauden Barrett; Conversions: Dan Carter 5, Beauden Barrett 2 d.

Japan 6 – Penalties: Ayumu Goromaru 2.

Competition: New Zealand Tour to Japan 2013.
Date: Saturday 02 November 2013.
Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground, Tokyo.
Japan Test Number: 293.
Japan Game Number: TBC.
Kick-off: 14:00 local time (05:00 GMT/UTC).

Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa) (1st test). Assistant Referees: Angus Gardner (Australia) and Andrew Lees (Australia). TMO: George Ayoub (Australia).

Conditions: Daily forecast for Tokyo 13-20 degrees Celsius, overcast with light rain, no breeze. Surface well grassed and slightly greasy.

Attendance: 20,454.
Halftime: New Zealand 28 – Japan 6.

Yellow Card: Sam Kane (New Zealand No.7, 41 min 2H, repeated infringements).

Head-to-head Encounters:

Japan and New Zealand representative sides (including the New Zealand All Blacks, New Zealand Maori, the Junior All Blacks, New Zealand Universities and New Zealand Colts) have met on 29 occasions dating back to 1936. The New Zealand sides have won 24, Japan 3 and there have been 2 draws.

The only officially recognised tests in which caps were awarded to both sides were the clashes in the 1995 and 2011 Rugby World Cups and in Tokyo in 2013. For the remaining 26 games, no test status or caps were awarded to the New Zealand sides although these games count as tests in Japanese statistics with caps awarded accordingly.

The highest scoring win for Japan was 31-15 over New Zealand Universities in Tokyo in September 1982, while the biggest winning margin was 16 points in the same test. The longest winning sequence for Japan is one win in a row in 1968, 1974 and 1982.

The highest scoring win for any New Zealand representative side was 145-17 by the All Blacks in Bloemfontein in June 1995, while the biggest winning margin was 128 points in the same test. The longest winning sequence for New Zealand representative sides is nine wins in a row between 1987 and 2013.

Seventeen of the twenty-nine tests have been played in Japan while ten tests have been played in New Zealand and the other two tests were played on neutral territory. Japan and the New Zealand All Blacks have met twice at the Rugby World Cup finals, in Bloemfontein in 1995 and Hamilton in 2011.

Official test results for Japan against representative sides from New Zealand

Date Result Venue Comp. Japan W/D/L
(Home – Away) Test No. (For Japan)
29 2-Nov-13 Japan 6 – New Zealand 54 Chichibu, Tokyo   293 Lost
28 16-Sep-11 New Zealand 83 – Japan 7 Waikato Stadium, Hamilton 7th RWC 271 Lost
27 23-Jun-09 Junior All Blacks 52 – Japan 21 Churchill Park, Lautoka PNC 247 Lost
26 28-Jun-08 NZ Maori 65 – Japan 22 Mclean Park, Napier PNC 238 Lost
25 24-Jun-07 Japan 3 – Junior All Blacks 51 Chichibu, Tokyo PNC 225 Lost
24 24-Jun-06 Junior All Blacks 38 – Japan 8 Carisbrook, Dunedin P5N (PNC) 215 Lost
23 4-Jun-95 New Zealand 145 – Japan 17 Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein 3rd RWC 128 Lost
22 1-Nov-87 Japan 4 – New Zealand XV 106 National Stadium, Tokyo   98 Lost
21 25-Oct-87 Japan 0 – New Zealand XV 74 Hanazono, Osaka   97 Lost
20 26-Sep-82 Japan 31 – NZ Universities 15 National Stadium, Tokyo   76 Won
19 30-May-82 NZ Universities 22 – Japan 6 Growers Stadium, Pukekohe   74 Lost
18 16-May-82 NZ Universities 35 – Japan 20 Athletic Park, Wellington   73 Lost
17 30-Mar-80 Japan 25 – NZ Universities 25 National Stadium, Tokyo   65 Drew
16 28-Mar-76 Japan 6 – NZ Universities 45 National Stadium, Tokyo   50 Lost
15 26-May-74 NZ Universities 21 – Japan 24 Athletic Park, Wellington   43 Won
14 19-May-74 NZ Junior 55 – Japan 31 Auckland   42 Lost
13 12-May-74 NZ Universities 40 – Japan 31 Carisbrook, Dunedin   41 Lost
12 29-Mar-70 Japan 14 – NZ Universities 46 Chichibu, Tokyo   32 Lost
11 15-Mar-70 Japan 14 – NZ Universities 28 Hanazono, Osaka   30 Lost
10 8-Mar-70 Japan 6 – NZ Universities 16 Chichibu, Tokyo   29 Lost
9 8-Jun-68 NZ Universities 25 – Japan 16 Athletic Park, Wellington   26 Lost
8 3-Jun-68 NZ Junior 19 – Japan 23 Athletic Park, Wellington   25 Won
7 21-Mar-67 Japan 8 – NZ Universities 55 Chichibu, Tokyo   24 Lost
6 12-Mar-67 Japan 3 – NZ Universities 19 Hanazono, Osaka   23 Lost
5 23-Mar-58 Japan 3 – NZ Colts 56 Chichibu, Tokyo   17 Lost
4 9-Mar-58 Japan 6 – NZ Colts 32 Hanazono, Osaka   16 Lost
3 2-Mar-58 Japan 3 – NZ Colts 24 Heiwadai Stadium, Fukuoka   15 Lost
2 16-Feb-36 Japan 9 – NZ Universities 9 Hanazono, Osaka   7 Drew
1 9-Feb-36 Japan 8 – NZ Universities 16 Meiji Jingu Stadium, Tokyo   6 Lost

RWC = Rugby World Cup

PNC = Pacific Nations Cup (The PNC was known as the Pacific Five Nations in 2006 only)

Japan (IRB rank 15 (71.98), at 28 October 2013)

  Name (Test Player Number) Club DOB Age Hgt/Wgt Caps
1 Masataka MIKAMI (TBC) Toshiba Brave Lupus 4/06/1988 25 178/115 10
2 Shota HORIE (530) Panasonic Wild Knights 21/01/1986 27 180/105 24
3 Kensuke HATAKEYAMA (515) Suntory Sungoliath 2/08/1985 28 178/115 47
4 Shoji ITO (553) Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers 2/12/1980 32 191/100 18
5 Hitoshi ONO (445) Toshiba Brave
6/05/1978 35 192/106 74
6 Hendrik TUI (565) Suntory Sungoliath 13/12/1987 25 189/107 15
7 Michael BROADHURST (566) Ricoh Black Rams 30/10/1986 27 196/111 13
8 Ryu Koliniasi HOLANI (512) Panasonic Wild Knights 25/10/1981 32 188/112 26
9 Fumiaki TANAKA (510) Panasonic Wild Knights 3/01/1985 28 166/71 38
10 Harumichi TATEKAWA (557) Kubota Spears 2/12/1989 23 181/94 20
11 Kenki FUKUOKA (TBC) Tsukuba University 7/09/1992 21 175/83 8
12 Craig WING (TBC) Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers 26/12/1979 33 180/90 6
13 Male SAU (TBC) Yamaha Jubilo 13/10/1987 26 183/97 10
14 Toshiaki HIROSE (c) (495) Toshiba Brave Lupus 17/10/1981 32 173/82 16
15 Ayumu GOROMARU (467) Yamaha Jubilo 1/03/1986 27 185/99 30
16 Yusuke AOKI (490) Suntory Sungoliath 19/06/1983 30 176/97 29
17 Yusuke NAGAE (551) Ricoh Black Rams 19/07/1985 28 171/107 14
18 Hiroshi YAMASHITA (523) Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers 1/01/1986 27 183/122 26
19 Luke THOMPSON (493) Kintetsu Liners 16/04/1981 32 196/108 40
20 Takashi KIKUTANI (474) Toyota Verblitz 24/02/1980 33 187/106 64
21 Kosei ONO (492) Suntory Sungoliath 17/04/1987 26 171/83 19
22 Yu TAMURA (555) NEC Green Rockets 9/01/1989 24 181/92 14
23 Yoshikazu FUJITA (562) Waseda University 8/09/1993 20 184/90 10

Acting Head Coach: Scott Wisemantel (AUS).

16 subbed 2, 36 min 2H.
17 subbed 1, 36 min 2H.
18 subbed 3, 16 min 2H.
19 subbed 4, 25 min 2H.
20 subbed 8, 0 min 2H.
21 subbed 12, 25 min 2H.
22 subbed 10, 27 min 1H.
23 subbed 14, 17 min 2H.

NB: The IRB announced a number of global law amendment trials to start on 1 September 2012 in the northern hemisphere and 1 January in the southern hemisphere. One of these amendments is to permit international teams to nominate up to eight replacements.

New Zealand (IRB rank 1 (93.05), at 28 October 2013)


Name (Test Player Number)



































Dominic BIRD





















Richie McCAW (c)




























Francis SAILI














Charles PIUTAU





















Andrew HORE























































Head Coach: Steve Hansen. (25 tests as head coach for 23 wins, one draw and one loss)

16 subbed 2, 24 min 2H.
17 subbed 1, 27 min 2H.
18 not used.
19 not used.
20 subbed 5, 17 min 2H.
21 subbed 9, 27 min 2H.
22 subbed 10, 11 min 2H.
23 subbed 13, 11 min 2H.


Japan are set to host the New Zealand All Blacks in a full test at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo on Saturday 2 November 2013 before both sides than travel on to Europe for further autumn tests.

Although representative sides from New Zealand have visited Japan on nine previous occasions dating back to 1936, including an All Blacks XV tour in 1987, this meeting is only the third full test between Japan and New Zealand and the first on Japanese soil.

The continuing rise in the standard of Japanese rugby on the international stage, including the 23-8 win over Wales at his venue back in June combined with the fact that Japan will host the 2019 Rugby World Cup finals is making Japan more attractive as a tour destination for the world’s top ranked sides and there is no higher ranked team in the IRB World Rankings than the All Blacks with an impressive 93.05% win rate.

The test is also attracting a lot of local interest with tickets at the 25,000-seat venue quickly sold out while terrestrial television station Nippon Television Network is screening the game live, a rarity for Japanese test matches.

This test also has an emotional edge for Japan with head coach Eddie Jones suffering a mild stroke on 15 October leaving him in hospital after developing difficulties moving his left limbs. Scott Wisemantel has been appointed from the coaching staff as acting head coach for the 53-year-old former Wallabies coach for this test against the All Blacks in Tokyo and the November tour of Europe that includes tests against Scotland, Russia and Spain.

Japan have won their last three tests with wins over Wales, Canada and the USA back in June and not surprisingly there are few changes to the XXIII that beat the Eagles 38-20 on this same ground just over three months ago on 23 June. Young Toshiba loosehead prop Masataka Mikami again starts with hooker Shota Horie while Kensuke Hatakeyama gets his 47th cap as the most-capped Japanese prop. Shoji Ito and veteran Hitoshi Ono retain their places in the second row while in the backrow Hendrik Tui and Michael Broadhurst are on the side of the scrum with Tongan-born Panasonic hit-man Koliniasi Ryu Holani at No8.

In the backs, Fumiaki Tanaka is back in the side at halfback after stints with Otago and the Highlanders and he will be up against former team mates in Andrew Hore, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett and Ben Smith while the physical Harumichi Tatekawa will start at No.10. Former NRL star Craig Wing in his first season in the Japan national side once again teams up with Male Sau in the centres while the selectors are again looking to the future with 21-year-old university student Kenki Fukuoka on the left wing with captain Toshiaki Hirose on the right wing. Goal-kicking Ayumu Goromaru is now a permanent fixture in the No.15 jersey adding stability at the back.

On the bench, Yusuke Aoki is the reserve hooker while Yusuke Nagae and Hiroshi Yamashita complete the front row complement. Kintetsu lock Luke Thompson has a recall to the national side for the first time since the tour of Europe last autumn and he will chalk up his fortieth test appearance for Japan should his services be required while former Japan captain Takashi Kikutani adds experience and depth to the backrow ranks. As in earlier tests this season, Japan have opted not to carry a second halfback with Kosei Ono and Yu Tamura covering the inside backs while 20-year-old Yoshikazu Fujita as the youngest player in either squad for this test will cover the back three positions.

For the All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has been named at No8 and Dan Carter as first five-eighths in the starting line-up giving Japanese fans something to cheer for. Otherwise, with a number of principal players flying straight on to Europe, fringe players in the squad get their opportunity to show their wares. Wyatt Crockett, Dane Coles and the older of the Franks brothers in Ben make up the starting front row while in the second row Dominic Bird will partner Jeremy Thrush. At 206cm Bird is a giant lock and he will finally make his debut in the Black jersey after an injury-plagued season. Sam Kane is preferred on the open side of the scrum and at only 21 years of age he looks set to carry on the New Zealand tradition of producing world-class open side flankers. With Cane at No.7, captain McCaw gets a rare start at the back for his country while Steven Luatua from the Blues completes the loose forward trio on the blindside.

In the backs, Tawera Kerr-Barlow gets his twelfth cap at halfback inside Dan Carter who will be playing in his ninety-eighth test. Outside Carter there are a number of younger players playing for their futures with 195cm Frank Halai making his test debut on the left wing while 22-year-old Blues flyer Charles Piutau gets his eighth cap across on the right wing. Francis Saili and Ben Smith are in the centres while the versatile utility back Beauden Barrett is at fullback.

On the bench, prop Jeffery Toomaga-Allen and loose forward Luke Whitelock will also be itching to make their test debuts. Veteran hooker Andrew Hore and prop Charlie Faumuina as the heaviest man on either side at 130kg complete the front row. Brodie Retallick is the spare lock while halfback Aaron Smith will be hoping he can get some game time against otherwise team mate Tanaka. The Crusaders pair of Tom Taylor and Ryan Crotty complete the backs on the bench.


On an historic occasion at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo on Saturday 2 November 2013, the New Zealand All Blacks beat the Japan national side 54-6 in the first ever full test played between the All Blacks and Japan on Japanese soil.

Under heavy clouds and intermittent light rain the All Blacks ran in eight unanswered tries in a controlled forwards display matched by the brilliance of the New Zealanders with ball in hand in attack. It was far from all doom and gloom for the Japanese side though and the 20,454 fans that packed the stadium to cheer them on as the hosts stayed with their far more fancied rivals for the first thirty minutes, played out the full eighty minutes and were desperately unlucky not to pick up one five-pointer when young wing Kenki Fukuoka was deemed to have been forced into touch attempting to touch down in what was the eighty-first minute of play.

Under dark skies with the ground lights on, Dan Carter got the action under way with the All Blacks defending the northern scoreboard end of the ground in the first half. Carter kicked off high and short to the right with towering wing Frank Halai knocking the ball forward in the air to force the first scrum of the match. The Japanese scrum held firm and from quick ball No8 Koliniasi Ryu Holani peeled off infield only to have the ball knocked from his grasp.

On the first scrum feed for New Zealand, the Japanese pack put on a mighty second shove resulting in a tighthead win for the hosts who then calmly cleared the ball downfield. However, in typical New Zealand fashion the visitors counter-attacked with No8 and captain Richie McCaw bundled across the right-hand touchline within smelling distance of the Japanese try line.

Japan won the ensuing lineout and cleared up field only for the All Blacks to launch a further attack from their lineout but were penalised for sealing off at the breakdown. Japan cleared their twenty-two and from the lineout crept into the New Zealand half where a further penalty gave halfback Fumiaki Tanaka the impetus for a quick tap but at the next phase the attack was thwarted with a breakdown penalty.

This allowed the All Blacks to build momentum and from a scrum in front of the Japan posts the ball was chipped into in-goal and dead. From the re-start Japan kicked long only to be returned with a high bomb which Holani spilt under pressure. Right wing Charles Piutau scooped up the scraps and ran in the opening try in the test in what was the ninth minute of play. Carter added the extras to see the visitors out to a 7-0 lead.

A few minutes later Japan were on the board with a penalty to fullback Ayumu Goromaru to narrow the score to 7-3. From the re-start New Zealand were penalised for interfering with a player in the air giving Japan an attacking opportunity from a lineout just outside the All Blacks twenty-two. The attack started well but after several phases the ball was knocked on undoing the good that had been done.

Nevertheless, Japan maintained the pressure in both defence and attack but five-eighth Harumichi Tatekawa found out what All Blacks defence was all about when he was smashed in a tackle and although he stayed on the field for a few more minutes was replaced by Yu Tamura with what looked like an injury to his left shoulder.

In front of a willing home ground, the Japanese kept taking the game to the men in black with flanker Michael Broadhurst showing the way with a lineout steal getting up in front of test debutant in 206cm Dominic Bird. Goromaru then made it 7-6 when he kicked his second penalty in the twenty-second minute and for the ultra-optimists at the ground the sniff of one of the greatest upsets in world sport was in the air.

However, although they were scrambling well, the fizz was starting to slip out of the Japanese game and the All Blacks were starting to find their rhythm and that could only spell danger. Then, in a simple move that say the ball shifted right across the field, loose forward Sam Kane found himself in plenty of space and even though he had men in support outside he did not need them and drifted in for the second New Zealand try. Carter converted to make it 14-6.

From the deep re-start, the All Blacks backs countered from a Beauden Barrett kick down the left-hand side of the field for centre Ben Smith to score. Carter converted and in the blink of an idea what had been a one-point lead became a 21-6 lead.

The All Blacks had seen off the Japanese assault over the opening half hour and with a sizeable lead on the scoreboard the challenge was effectively subdued at this point.

The New Zealanders were not done for the half either with captain McCaw adding a further try picking up from the back at a five-metre scrum with Carter converting from out wide to increase the lead to 28-6.

Japan were not playing badly but New Zealand were just superior. The Japanese were struggling to get over the advantage line in attack and perhaps part of the reason behind this was the injury forced replacement to starting playmaker Tatekawa. Overall though, Japan were playing above themselves in a commendable first half that saw the sides go to the break with the visitors leading 28-6.

With light drizzle continuing, Tamura kicked off the second half with New Zealand then setting up camp in the Japanese half. The New Zealand forwards started to up the ante at the set pieces and with control of the breakdowns the majority of possession and territory went the way of the All Blacks. In the tight the visitors were putting their hosts in a stranglehold and from a five-metre lineout in the tenth minute lock Jeremy Thrush used his size and bulk to barge over for the opening try of the latter half. Carter converted and then was replaced by Tom Taylor to make it five conversions from five during his fifty-one minutes on the field.

The weight of possession and territory started to take its toll on the tired Japanese defence with Japan conceding a sixth try in the seventeenth minute to Halai followed by a seventh to Barrett from a tighthead scrum win in the twenty-seventh minute before Piutau had the last say with his second in the thirty-third minute from turnover ball at the breakdown. Barrett landed two of his three attempts at conversion to close out the scoring 54-6.

Although the game was well gone, Japan had one last chance for a try when loose ball was hacked down field to get the crowd on its feet. A series of penalties and the sinbinning of Kane after the hooter meant Japan could maintain a fast and furious pace in search of that elusive try against the mighty All Blacks. Against this backdrop though, the All Blacks did not lower their standards and defended grimly everything that Japan could throw at them. It looked like Japan got what they wanted when Kenki Fukuoka snuck over in the left-hand corner but after South African referee Stuart Berry, officiating in his first test referred to the TMO it was ruled no try with the wily McCaw having a hand in forcing the youngster into touch before the ball was grounded.

Despite the scoreline, the Japanese could hold their heads high knowing they will be better for the experience. For Japan captain Toshiaki Hirose, after the match he said, “We tried to believe in ourselves and attack but we couldn’t take our chances and New Zealand capitalised. It was great playing in front of a full house here and we are sorry we could not do better.”

Stand-in head coach Scott Wisemantel said, “In the first twenty minutes we did very well but we then gave away a few cheap tries and from there let the game slip. The next step is to maintain that for fifty minutes against a side like this.” He went on to say, “Our scrum has improved dramatically but the breakdown was the area we lost the game with their second man in quicker than ours.”

In response to a question regarding the current health of Eddie Jones, Wisemantel said, “Eddie is currently undergoing rehab in hospital and hopes to be back on board for the Asian Five Nations in 2014.”

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen said, “This was a very good game for us in a number of ways. We got some new people on the field and they found out what it’s like to be an All Black. Some of these guys are the future of this team. We scored some great tries but we did get caught trying to play their game on occasions.” He added, “This is a young group doing what they do and even in the eighty-first minute they were still trying to stop the opposition scoring.” Finally, he said, “The attitude was right today, we just have to grow these young men. Those who have played ten to thirty tests had to step up and although we had to prepare mentally to win a game we were always expected to win well we achieved a lot.”

In an on-field interview immediately after the test, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw commented to the crowd, “It was great to have a game here in Japan in front of a good crowd. We had four guys playing their first game for New Zealand today and some haven’t played for a long time, so it was great for us to have this hit out.” In response to a question on the Japan performance he said, “The whole Japan team played with a lot of pace and put us under pressure at times.”

Later on at the post-match press conference McCaw added, “It’s always a challenge in a game like this where we are expected to win. We had a slow start and got a bit frustrated and I was also disappointed with our discipline at times.”

When asked how Japan could improve, McCaw noted, “The odd dropped ball hurt them. If they can hold those balls they can put teams under pressure.”


Top League Profiles 2013-14


(4) Kobelco Steelers

2013-14 Introduction: Last season (2012-13) Kobe finished fourth on the final table after heading the standings for much of the season. Although Kobe were knocked out in the semi-final of the Top League Play-offs they then won their way through to the National Championship final for the first time since 2004 where they were beaten by Suntory.

Kobe as the inaugural Top League champions way back in 2003-4 have consistently finished fourth, fifth or sixth every season since but 2013-14 looks like being one full of hope and expectation. A number of prominent overseas names are at the Steelers this season including South Africans Jaques Fourie, Peter Grant and 208cm lock Andries Bekker along with Craig Wing, Fraser Anderson and Josh Blackie. There are also a lot of Japan internationals in the ranks including hookers Takeshi Kizu and Yuji Matsubara, flankers Shoji Ito and Itaru Taniguchi along with props Hisateru Hirashima and Yoshimitsu Yasue. In the backs, utility back Yuta Imamura, halfback Takashi Sato and fullback Kenji Shomen are also key personnel.

Established: Kobe Steel as the team is commonly known were formed in 1928 in the port city of Kobe in western Japan. Kobe are one of the oldest and most successful corporate rugby teams in Japan and they have been at the heart and soul of rugby and its development in this country. Kobe now officially calls themselves the Kobelco Steelers and have also adopted the catchphrase Bodies of Steel, Hearts of Gold.

The slogan for 2013-14 is “Tough

The Company: Kobelco and the Kobe Steel Company Group are, as the name suggests, an iron and steel manufacturing concern. In addition, Kobe manufacture other metal products from titanium, aluminium and copper, as well as being a major manufacturer of welding products. Further, Kobelco is well known for its cranes, excavators and construction machinery, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. Have a look at the company English homepage here.

Top League – once (2003-4).

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.

2012-13 (14 teams): 4th on table on 49 points with 9 wins, a draw and 3 losses. Lost to Suntory 38-19 in Play-off semi-final.

2011-12 (14 teams): 6th on table on 38 points with 6 wins, a draw and 6 losses.

2010-11 (14 teams): 5th on table on 36 points with 7 wins and 6 losses.

2009-10 (14 teams): 5th on table on 38 points with 7 wins, a draw and 5 losses.

2008-9 (14 teams): 4th on table on 43 points with 9 wins and 4 losses. (See 2009 Microsoft Cup below for further details)

2007-8 (14 teams): 5th on table on 46 points with 9 wins and 4 losses.

2006-7 (14 teams): 6th on table on 42 points with 8 wins and 5 losses.

2005-6 (12 teams): 5th on table on 33 points with 7 wins and 4 losses.

2004-5 (12 teams): 5th on table on 34 points with 6 wins and 5 losses.

2003-4 (12 teams): Champion. first on table on 47 points with nine wins and two losses.

National Championship - 9 times (1989 to 1995, 2000 and 2001); runners-up 4 times (1999, 2002, 2004 and 2013).

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 2013, the Wildcard Tournament again featured six teams, that is, the six teams that finished fifth to tenth on the final Top League table for the 2012-13 season. In the first round, eighth placed NEC Green Rockets beat ninth placed NTT Communications Shining Arcs 38-14 and seventh placed Kintetsu Liners beat tenth placed Ricoh Black Rams 43-21. In the second round the following weekend, sixth placed Yamaha Jubilo beat Kintetsu 70-12 and fifth placed Toyota Verblitz beat NEC 41-23. The two winners from the second round in Yamaha and Toyota qualified for the National Championship as the Wildcard Qualifiers.

2013 (50th NC - 10 teams): Runners-up. As runners-up in TL Play-off, entered NC at SF stage. Beat Toshiba 31-29 in SF and lost to Suntory 36-20 in final.

2012 (49th NC - 10 teams): Beat Ricoh 32-19 in Wildcard Tournament to qualify. Lost to NEC 17-10 in 1st round.

2011 (48th NC - 10 teams): Beat Sanix 55-40 in Wildcard Tournament to qualify. Beat Toyota 27-17 in 1st round, NTT Docomo 38-0 in 2nd round, lost to Suntory 37-33 in SF.

2010 (47th NC - 10 teams): Beat Coca-Cola 40-28 in Wildcard Tournament to qualify. Lost to Toyota 36-19 in first round.

2009 (46th NC - 10 teams): Lost 30-29 to NEC in first 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): DNQ as only top 4 TL teams qualified.

2005 (42nd NC - 8 teams): DNQ as only top 4 TL teams qualified.

2004 (41st NC - 22 teams): Runners-up. Beat Kubota 52-12 and NEC 34-29 then lost to Toshiba 22-10 in final.

Corporate Champions - 9 times (2001, 2000, 1989 to 1995); runners-up 3 times (2002, 1986 and 1985). 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: The traditional colours of red jersey and white shorts remain, while the second jersey is grey with blue lettering. The Kobe group name KOBELCO appears prominently on the front of the jersey. KOBELCO is a group name representing over 200 companies.

Style of Play: As a company team, Kobe have over the years consistently attracted some of the best young players from high profile universities and in turn been a major contributor to national teams. Established in 1928, they are also by far one of the oldest of the current Top League clubs along with Kintetsu (1929). Toyota is the next oldest Top League club, having been established in 1941. And with nine national titles and a further nine corporate titles they are also one of the most successful rugby teams in the history of Japanese corporate rugby. Kobe are one of the three great corporate teams in Japanese rugby history. The two others are Yawata Steel (now playing in Top Kyushu) with 12 corporate titles from the early 1950s to late 1960s and Shin Nittetsu Kamaishi (now playing as a club side in Top East Division One as Kamaishi Seawaves RFC) with nine corporate titles including a string of seven in a row from 1979 to 1985 and 8 national titles. Although Kobe no longer have the same aura of invincibility as they did, what sets them apart from the other two historical teams is that they are still a major player in Japanese rugby.

Kobe won the initial Top League title in 2003-4 but since then have slightly fallen off the pace but have still managed to consistently finish fourth or fifth on the table. Part of the reason behind the drop was the generational change that had to take place with the likes of icons like Yukio Motoki, Daisuke Ohata and Takeomi Ito hard to replace. However, the Steelers have been gradually rebuilding over recent years and are now once again a real threat. Pride and tradition count for a lot with Kobe and when they are doing well Japanese rugby is doing well. One had the feeling that the next golden age for Kobe is not too far away.

Players to Watch: Over the recent years of the Top League era, a number of the mainstays in the Kobe squad have come to the end of their careers and subsequently retired including the likes of inside centre Yukio Motoki (retired at the end of the 2009-10 season) who played in four World Cups and with 79 caps and wing Daisuke Ohata (retired at the end of the 2010-11 season) who overtook the world record of 64 test tries set by David Campese, and now holds the record with 69 tries from 58 tests and backrower Takeomi Ito (62 caps, moved to Kamaishi Seawaves at the end of the 2011-12 season). Consequently, Kobe have all but completed a generational change with hooker Yuji Matsubara the only surviving member form the Kobe side that won the inaugural Top League title back in 2003-4. Although the club has relied on their stars and pulling power in the past, in the last few years other clubs have caught up with and overtaken the pace of the men in red. As an indication of this, the Steelers won the Top League trophy in 2003-4, but they have been just off the pace in the years since consistently finishing fourth, fifth or sixth on the table behind the likes of Toshiba, Suntory, Sanyo and Toyota. However, as an indication of the revival of Kobe, they made the final of the National Championship this year (2013) for the first time since 2004.

For the 2013-14 season, in the forwards, flanker Daiki Hashimoto is in his second year as captain this year and one of the faces of the future of the club and along with fellow backrower Shoji Ito they both made their international debuts in the spring of 2012 in the HSBC Asian Five Nations. Former captain and loosehead prop Hisateru Hirashima and backrower Itaru Taniguchi represented the club at the 2011 RWC in New Zealand and they continue to lead the way at club level. There are still plenty of home-grown players in the pack who have represented Japan including hookers Yuji Matsubara and Yoshimitsu Yasue, prop Hiroshi Yamashita while hooker Takeshi Kizu is the incumbent national hooker. Ryuta Yasui is the newest edition to the long line of Kobe players to represent Japan with two caps in the spring of 2013. Flanker Josh Blackie is still in the Kobe pack for a seventh season while No8s Pasuka Mapakaitolo and Shohei Maekawa continue to impress with their high work rates. Former Springbok lock Andries Bekker is a big name signing for the club this season.

In the backs, Springbok Peter Grant is the key player for the club in his fourth year and he should be taking a lot of control from five-eighth while also contributing with his goal-kicking. Centre Yuta Imamura at 28 years of age and with 38 test caps Imamura has emerged as one of the more experienced and senior players in the backline. Elsewhere in the backs, halfback Takashi Sato picked up four caps for Japan while playing at Yamaha and he will be pushed for the No.9 jersey by Nathan Anderson and Satoru Sawatari. Former Toyota playmaker Kenji Shomen, now in his fifth season with Kobe adds depth to the Kobe backline with his ability to cover a number of positions while further out, is New Zealand born centre or wing Fraser Anderson who came to Kobe from the Australian rugby league ranks. Other players in the backs, wing Kanzo Nakahama came to Kobe from Waseda as an exciting prospect. The Kobe backline is further bolstered with Craig Wing with his Philippine passport allowing the club to use him as an Asian player outside the reduced two man overseas player quota for this season while former Springbok Jaque Fourie adds sharpness to the backs. Finally inside back Daisuke Yamamoto and former Japan No.10 Kyohei Morita along with the return of Ryohei Yamanaka add depth to the squad.

Cap Holders for Japan in the Current Squad: (15)

In 2013, in the HSBC A5N series, Kobe were represented by hooker Takeshi Kizu, tighthead prop Hiroshi Yamashita, backrowers Shoji Ito and Ryuta Yasui, centre Craig Wing and wing Yuta Imamura. Wing debuted for Japan in the final test of the series against the UAE while Yasui made his test debut from the bench in the same test. In the IRB PNC series, Kobe were represented by Kizu, Yamashita, Ito, Yasui, Wing and Imamura. In the middle of the PNC series, Wales toured Japan for two tests and Kobe were represented by Kizu, Yamashita, Ito and Wing.

Yuta IMAMURA (480) 28 y/o (31/10/1984), 38 caps at outside centre or wing.

Hisateru HIRASHIMA (514) 30 y/o (15/01/1983), 27 caps at loosehead prop.

Hiroshi YAMASHITA (523) 27 y/o (01/01/1986), 25 caps at tighthead prop.

Yuji MATSUBARA (440) 34 y/o (05/09/1979), 23 caps at hooker.

Takeshi KIZU (533) 25 y/o (15/07/1988), 22 caps at hooker.

Shinji ITO (553) 32 y/o (02/12/1980), 17 caps as lock and in backrow.

Itaru TANIGUCHI (543) 29 y/o (01/10/1984), 10 caps at flanker/No8.

Kyohei MORITA (448) 29 y/o (06/02/1984), 8 caps at five-eighth.

Craig WING (TBC), 33 y/o (26/12/1979), 5 caps at centre.

Takashi SATO (506) 32 y/o (10/06/1981), 4 caps at halfback.

Naonori MIZUYAMA (513), 31 y/o (15/03/1982), 3 caps as hooker.

Yoshimitsu YASUE (528) 29 y/o (25/08/1984), 2 caps at hooker.

Kenji SHOMEN (433) 30 y/o (01/05/1983), 2 caps at five-eighth and centre.

Daiki HASHIMOTO (561) 24 y/o (07/02/1987), 1 cap at flanker.

Ryohei YAMANAKA (541) 25 y/o (22/06/1988), 1 cap at five-eighth.

The Coach: The head coach for 2013-14 is former Japan and Kobe halfback Yuji Sonoda (05/07/1973, 40 y/o, Japan player number 385) who is in his fourth season in the role after retiring as a player at the end of the 2009-10 season. Sonoda earned 18 caps for Japan between 2000 and 2003 including two starts in the 2003 RWC. Seiji Hirao (50), is the general manager now in his seventh season on the coaching staff. Steve Cumberland is technical adviser while Nick Holten is the forwards coach and Nicholas Collins the head strength and conditioning coach.

The Captain: For the 2013-14 season, flanker Daiki Hashimoto is in his second season as captain. Hashimoto is in his fifth year with the club and made his international debut as openside flanker against the UAE in Fukuoka in 2012 and to date this remains his only cap. Shinji Ito and Kenji Shomen are the vice captains.

Losses: (4)

Yoshitaka HAYASHI, 34 y/o (24/11/1978), lock, 188/98, retired after 12 seasons with club.

Takashi SAKUMA 27 y/o (14/11/1985), halfback, 171/77, to Kamaishi Seawaves after 2 seasons with club.

Waku KIKUCHI, 31 y/o, (11/08/1982) centre, 180/90, retired after 5 seasons with club.

Jin OGASAWARA, 30 y/o (07/05/1983), wing, 177/80, retired after 7 seasons with club.

Gains: (7)

Hiroya SAWAI, 23 y/o (18/07/1990), prop, 179/125, from Ritsumeikan Uni. He has represented Japan at High School level.

Naonori MIZUYAMA (513), 31 y/o (15/03/1982), hooker, 175/95, 3 caps as hooker, NEC (2004-5 to 2008-9), NTT Docomo (2009-10 to 2012-13).

Andries BEKKER (RSA) 29 y/o (05/12/1983), lock, 208/121, 29 caps for Springboks, SR Stormers.

Daisuke MAEDA, 23 y/o (07/10/1990), lock, 187/105, from Kinki Uni.

Yuta NAKANO, 23 y/o (16/11/1989), flanker/No8, 180/98, from Waseda Uni. He has represented Japan at High School level.

Daijiro TANAKA, 23 y/o (06/07/1990), halfback, 166/69, from Kyoto Sangyo Uni.

Ryohei YAMANAKA (541) 25 y/o (22/06/1988), five-eighth/centre, 188/96, 1 cap at five-eighth, Waseda Univ.

Overseas Players and Staff (8 + 3):

Pasuka MAPAKAITOLO (Tonga/Japan), 33 y/o (27/04/1980), No8, 190/115, 8th year, from Rissho Uni. He has 2 caps for Tonga and he has also represented Tonga at Sevens.

Josh BLACKIE (NZL), 34 y/o (03/08/1979), flanker, 193/105, 7th year, JAB, NZ7s, Highlanders and Blues SR, Otago NPC.

Nathan ANDERSON (NZL/Japan), 29 y/o (18/05/1984), halfback, 170/73, 6th year, from Ryutsu Keizai Univ. He has represented Japan at High School, U21 & Japan A levels.

Fraser ANDERSON (NZL), 29 y/o (20/04/1984), wing/centre, 193/101, 5th year. He played with Brisbane Broncos & Cronulla Sharks in the NRL.

Peter GRANT (RSA), 29 y/o (15/08/1984), five-eighth/centre, 186/92, 4th year, SR Stormers, 5 caps for Springboks.

Craig WING (AUS/The Philippines), 33 y/o (26/12/1979), five-eighth/centre, 182/90, 2nd year, South Sydney, Sydney Roosters NRL. Played rugby under Tony Hannon at Sydney Boys’ High School and was an Australian Schoolboy before turning to rugby league. From NTT Communications (2010-11 and 2009-10). He has 5 caps for Japan.

Jaque FOURIE (RSA) 30 y/o (04/03/1983), centre, 190/105, 2nd year, 69 caps for Springboks, SR Stormers, Panasonic (2010-11).

Andries BEKKER (RSA) 29 y/o (05/12/1983), lock, 208/121, 1st year, 29 caps for Springboks, SR Stormers.

Steve CUMBERLAND (NZL) 48 y/o, technical adviser.

Nick HOLTEN (NZL) 41 y/o, forwards coach.

Nicholas COLLINS, 37 y/o, head strength and conditioning coach.

The 2013-14 Squad: (48) The list starts with captain and vice-captains and then continues through forwards and backs in order from props to fullbacks. All family names come last. Daiki Hashimoto (c), Shoji Ito (v-c), Kenji Shomen (v-c). Forwards: Yoshimitsu Yasue, Eiko Yoshida, Hisateru Hirashima, Masanobu Yamauchi, Hiroshi Yamashita, Masahiko Nakagawa, Tsutomu Nagae, Motoki Yamazaki, Hiroya Sawai, Yuji Matsubara, Naonori Mizuyama, Masayuki Murakami, Takeshi Kizu, Andries Bekker, Yu Shimizu, Hajime Uemura, Hikaru Okubo, Ryuta Yasui, Daisuke Maeda, Josh Blackie, Pasuka Mapakaitolo, Itaru Taniguchi, Takahiro Suzuki, Yoshinobu Arai, Shohei Maekawa and Yuta Nakano. Backs: Takashi Sato, Nathan Anderson, Satoru Sawatari, Daijiro Tanaka, Craig Wing, Daisuke Yamamoto, Kyohei Morita, Peter Grant, Ryohei Yamanaka, Jaque Fourie, Hideki Tanabe, Naoya Minamihashi, Fraser Anderson, Yoshikazu Ohashi, Yuta Imamura, Yusuke Hamashima, So Noda, Kanzo Nakahama and Tsuyoshi Iguchi. Coach: Yuji Sonoda (40).

University Rugby 2013

The major university rugby leagues kicked off around the country over September and early October with schools in the Kanto area now having played three or four of their seven round games while in the Kansai league three rounds have been completed.

Kanto Taiko

(Tsukuba University, Teikyo University, Meiji University, Waseda University, Keio Gijuku University, Nippon Sports Science University, Aoyama Gakuin University and Seikei University.)

In the Kanto Taiko competition, Teikyo as the defending national university champions and traditional powerhouse Waseda have both won their opening four games in style while Meiji and Keio have both suffered one loss each for three wins. Tsukuba have had close losses to Waseda, Keio and Teikyo while recording a win over Meiji and Aoyama Gakuin had an inspiring win over Keio but went down in their other three matches while Nippon Sports Science and Seikei are winless.

Kanto League

(Tokai University, Ryutsu Keizai University, Takushoku University, Hosei University, Nihon University, Chuo University, Daitobunka University and Rissho University.)

In the Kanto League competition, Chuo top the table with 16 points from four straight wins followed by Tokai on 13 points from three wins and the one loss to Chuo. Ryutsu Keizai are third on 12 points from three wins with a game in hand and Nihon are fourth on 10 points from two wins and two losses. Hosei and Rissho are both on 7 points from one win and three losses while Daitobunka are on 6 points from one win and two losses with a game in hand and Takushoku are still winless on 4 points.

Kansai League

(Tenri University, Ritsumeikan University, Kwansei Gakuin University, Kinki University, Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences, Doshisha University, Kyoto Sangyo University and Kansai University.)

In the Kansai League, Ritsumeikan and Kyoto Sangyo have both won their opening three matches, Kwansei Gakuin and Doshisha have two wins and one loss while OUHSS and Kansai have one win for two losses. Tenri and Kinki are still looking for their first win.

Last up-dated: Thursday, 24 October 2013.

Autumn 2013

Scotland v Japan

Date: Saturday, 09 November 2013.
Venue: Murrayfield.
Kick-off: 14:30.

On 26 April 2013, the Japan Rugby Football Union announced that Japan would play Scotland on Saturday 09 November 2013 at an unconfirmed venue with a 14:30 kick-off. Scotland complete their autumn campaign with tests against South Africa on Sunday 17 and Australia on Saturday 23 November 2013 with the later two tests to be played at Murrayfield.

Tatsuzo Yabe made the following comment, “It is nine years since Japan has played Scotland in Scotland. Japan aims to break into the top ten rankings by the 2015 Rugby World Cup and it is important for us to play against strong sides in order to achieve that aim. It is also important for Japan to make a good impression on this tour in the lead up to hosting the 2019 RWC.”

Head coach Eddie Jones made the following comment, “It is a very vital step in that we could secure this test against Scotland. The last time Japan played in Scotland in November 2004 the side could not produce a good result. In our build-up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup, this test against Scotland is a big challenge for us. Scotland has one of the longest rugby traditions and they play a physical kind of game. To be sure, this will be a fantastic experience for our players.”

Gloucester v Japan

Date: Tuesday, 12 November 2013.
Venue: Kingsholm Stadium.
Kick-off: 19:45.

Russia v Japan

Date: Friday, 15 November 2013.
Venue: Parc Eirias, Wales.
Kick-off: 19:30.

Spain v Japan

Date: Saturday, 23 November 2013.
Venue: Madrid Ciudad Universitaria Stadium.
Kick-off: 16:00.

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