RiJ Vol.6 No.9

March 3, 2009

Contact Ian McDonnell at all.4.one@hotmail.com










¡       46th National Championship 2009: Final

s     Sanyo 24 d Suntory 16

¡       The Grubber Kick:

s     Back-chat: Japan to Pillage the NRL!

s     Fraser Anderson to Kobe.

s     Daisuke Ohata.

¡       The Draw:

s     Sevens

s     Asian Nations Cup 2009

s     Etc


RiJ is moving house this month. Our home address will be in Kita-Karuizawa in Gunma prefecture, though I will be working down the hill in Karuizawa, which is in Nagano prefecture. There may be a few interruptions along the way, but RiJ plans to continue as usual with the weekly Newsletter. All the furniture went today for RiJ will be living off “Bento” for the next dew weeks!


RiJ reports on the season closing final of the 2009 National Championship with Sanyo beating Suntory 25-16 to take out back-to-back titles. Congratulations Sanyo. RiJ also noted in the press in the days after the final that the Sanyo company has decided to continue to fully support its rugby team while they are still winning. Sanyo was recently taken over by Panasonic and RiJ dreads to know what will happen when Sanyo are no longer winning. RiJ hates to be a soggy piece of sushi, but really, the National Championship as a concept is a lost cause and desperately needs replacing. It is the same top ranked Top League teams getting to the final as the Microsoft Cup and it is just not working as a crowd figure of just over 11,000 points out. In The Grubber Kick, the news coming out of Australia this week has the cream of the NRL being head-hunted to play in Japan. Don’t believe everything you read in the press, except of course if it is RiJ! There is plenty for the diary in The Draw too. Enjoy the read!





The 46th National Championship 2009: Final

Sanyo 24 d Suntory 16.


The National Championship had an 8-team format over the previous three years, but for 2009 the number of teams has been increased to ten with the inclusion of two extra Top League sides. The National Championship involves the top 6 finishers in Japan Rugby Top League, the two top university teams, the winner of the Top Challenge Series and the top club team. The first round of the National Championship kicks off on Saturday, 7 February 2009.



Recent National Championship Finals

2009 (46th): Sanyo 24 d Suntory 16.

2008 (45th): Sanyo 40 d Suntory 18.

2007 (44th): Toshiba 19 d Suntory 10.

2006 (43rd): Toshiba 6 drew with NEC 6. (Joint champions)

2005 (42nd): NEC 17 d Toyota 13.

2004 (41st): Toshiba 22 d Kobe 10.





Sanyo Wild Knights (TL 2) 24 (Tries: Tomoki Kitagawa 2, Takashi Yoshida; Conversions: Masakazu Irie 3; Penalty: Irie.) defeated

Suntory Sungoliath (TL 3) 16 (Try: Junichi Hojo; Conversion: Ryan Nicholas; Penalties: Nicholas 3.)


Date: Saturday, 28 February 2009.

Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground, Tokyo.

Kick-off: 2:00 PM.

Referee:  Shinsuke Shimoi.

Attendance: 11,709.

Halftime: Sanyo 3 – Suntory 9.



Sanyo: 1- Naoki Kawamata, 2- Mitsugu Yamamoto, 3- Tomokazu Soma, 4- Young-Nam Yu, 5- Daniel Heenan, 6- Kieran Black, 7- Daishi Wakamatsu, 8- Koliniasi Ryu Holani, 9- Fumiaki Tanaka, 10- Masakazu Irie, 11- Takashi Miyake, 12- Jumpei Enomoto (c), 13- Seiichi Shimomura, 14- Tomoki Kitagawa and 15- Hiroshi Yamashita. Reserves: 16- Shota Horie, 17- Daisuke Tachikawa, 18- Yoichi Iijima, 19- Dai Kawaguchi, 20- Tony Brown, 21- Ryohei Miki and 22- Takashi Yoshida.


Suntory: 1- Takashi Hayashi, 2- Yusuke Aoki, 3- Kensuke Hatakeyama, 4- Takahiro Hayano, 5- Koji Shinozuka, 6- Hale T-Pole, 7- Kota Kamimura, 8- Juntaro Takemoto, 9- Kiyonori Tanaka, 10- Yoshinori Sogabe, 11- Hirotoki Onozawa, 12- Ryan Nicholas, 13- Daigo Yamashita (c), 14- Junichi Hojo and 15- Yasunori Nagatomo. Reserves: 16- Takashi Yamaoka, 17- Tateo Kanai, 18- Shinki Gen, 19- Koji Taira, 20- Shuetsu Narita, 21- Naoya Nomura and 22- Go Aruga.


Preview: The final of the 2009 National Championship will be a repeat of last year with Sanyo Wild Knights again playing Suntory Sungoliath. In the 2008 version Sanyo took out their first ever national title when they beat Suntory to the tune of 40-18. On the other hand, Suntory are playing in their third National Championship final in a row after being beaten by Sanyo last year and then Toshiba in 2007, and so the Sungoliath will be hoping for third time lucky to add to their two previous titles in 2002 and 1996.


Sanyo finished second in the 2008-9 Japan Rugby Top league season on 58 points from 12 wins and one loss whereas Suntory finished third on 51 points from 10 wins and three losses, including a first round 19-9 defeat at the hands of Sanyo. The two sides met again recently in a semi-final of the 2009 Microsoft Cup and once more Sanyo ran out victors 32-22. That means Sanyo have won the last three encounters dating back to the 2008 Microsoft Cup final where Suntory claimed a 14-10 victory.


Sanyo claimed their place in the final when they beat Ricoh Black Rams 59-3 in the semi-finals. Suntory had to come the long way to the final beating Kubota Spears 62-17 in the first round and Waseda University 59-20 in the second round before picking up a bye in the semi-final with the withdrawal of Toshiba Brave Lupus from the tournament following a positive drug test to wing Christian Loamanu.


Both sides have plenty of talent right across the board with the likes of lock Daniel Heenan, No8 Koliniasi Ryu Holani, halfback Fumiaki Tanaka and five-eighth Masakazu Irie in the Sanyo side and up and coming prop Kensuke Hatakeyama, the experienced Tongan international Hale T-Pole on the side of the scrum, the elusive Yoshinori Sogabe at five-eight and Ryan Nicholas in the centres for Suntory.


Wrap-up: Suntory kicked off the closing game of the domestic season but unfortunately the Yoshinori Sogabe kick failed to go the required 10 metres. However, from the ensuing Sanyo scrum in the centre of the field Suntory gained possession and instantly went on attack. Suntory dominated possession and territory in the opening minutes and this forced Sanyo to concede an early penalty around the five minute mark within kicking distance for Suntory centre Ryan Nicholas. Nicholas made sure of the kick to open a 3-0 lead to the Sungoliath. Nicholas kicked his second penalty in the 11th minute to extend the Suntory lead to 6-0. Nicholas was handed his third attempt at penalty in the 17th minute when Sanyo were penalised for not rolling away at the breakdown and the New Zealand born Japan international made no mistake pushing Suntory out to a 9-0 lead. Suntory continued to enjoy a glut of possession and by the 20 minute mark Sanyo were perhaps lucky to be only trailing by nine points.


In the 23rd minute Sogabe tried to extend the lead even further with a drop goal from about 40 metres out but the kick flew wide of the right hand upright. However, from the drop out that followed Suntory continued to throw the ball around with abandon adding to the pressure on the Sanyo defence.


Sanyo had their first opportunity for points in the 28th minute from a penalty at the breakdown from a rare forage into Suntory territory. Five-eighth Masakazu Irie stepped up to the mark and landed the kick to get the Knights on the board at 9-3. Over the closing minutes of the half Sanyo managed to get their hands on more ball and this helped the defending champions stay in touch on the scoreboard.


In the 36th minute Sogabe again threw caution to the wind with a second long range drop goal attempt but like the first shot it too failed to find its target. Not to be outdone, in the shadows of halftime Irie tried a drop goal of his own but this too was unsuccessful and this sent the teams to the break with Suntory leading 9-3 at the completion of a tryless first half.


The second half carried on from where the first half left off with Suntory continuing to dominate possession and territory with Sanyo reduced to living off scraps. In the thirteenth minute Nicholas lined up his fourth penalty after the Sanyo forwards were penalised for not rolling away from a ruck on the Sanyo goal line. However, he could not repeat the success of his first three kicks and the halftime score remained unchanged at 9-3.


In the 15th minute Tony Brown was introduced to the fray from the Sanyo bench to see if he could break the deadlock. The game continued in its helter skelter style with Brown having an immediate impact on the flow of the Sanyo play. Sanyo seemed to change gear with the presence of Brown on the field and all of a sudden they had more of the ball and were pressuring the Suntory goal line. The pressure told around the hour mark with replacement back Takashi Yoshida slipping through the Suntory defence for the opening try of the final. Irie kicked the easy conversion to put Sanyo in front for the first time at 10-9.


With Suntory now behind Sogabe tried another drop goal but it too went the way of his earlier attempts. Not long after Sanyo made a break in open play with the ball ending up in the hands of wing Tomoki Kitagawa who was awarded a try that had some doubt about the grounding. However, the try stood and Irie kicked the conversion to extend the Sanyo lead to 17-9.


In the 30th minute Nicholas missed with another penalty meaning Suntory had to score twice in the final ten minutes. However, with the rhythm of the game well and truly changed in favour of the Knights, Kitagawa was in for his second try in the 32nd minute. Irie converted the third Sanyo try to push out the score to 24-9.


With the clock winding down and the game slipping away from Suntory they threw the ball about in an attempt to salvage the final. This method proved successful with right wing Junichi Hojo scoring the first Suntory try in the 37th minute. Nicholas kicked the conversion from out wide but in the end it was not enough as the clock beat them with Sanyo running out winners for the second year in a row. The final score line read Sanyo 24 – Suntory 16.




Sunday, 22 February 2009.


Game 7 – Toshiba Brave Lupus (TL 1) v winner of game 5, Chichibu in Tokyo at 2:10 PM.

NB: Toshiba Brave Lupus have withdrawn from the National Championship after wing Christian Loamanu failed a doping test conducted by the Japan Anti-Doping Agency (JADA). Consequently, the semi-final set for Tokyo on 22 February 2009 has been cancelled. Further, Suntory Sungoliath (TL 3) as the winner of Game 5 proceeds directly to the final.


Game 8 –

Sanyo Wild Knights (TL 2) 59 (Tries: Seiichi Shimomura 2, Kieran Black, Young-Nam Yu, Shota Horie, Fumiaki Tanaka, Masakazu Irie, Tony Brown, Mitsugu Yamamoto; Conversions: Masakazu Irie 7.) defeated

Ricoh Black Rams (Top Challenger) 3 (Penalty: Yoshimitsu Kawano.),


Venue: Kintetsu Hanazono Rugby Ground, Osaka.

Kick-off:  2:10 PM.

Referee: Shinji Aida.

Attendance: 4,132.

Halftime: Sanyo 33 – Ricoh 3.

Yellow Card: Hiroyuki Tanuma (Ricoh, No.4).


Sanyo: 1- Naoki Kawamata, 2- Mitsugu Yamamoto, 3- Tomokazu Soma, 4- Young-Nam Yu, 5- Daniel Heenan, 6- Kieran Black, 7- Daishi Wakamatsu, 8- Koliniasi Ryu Holani, 9- Fumiaki Tanaka, 10- Masakazu Irie, 11- Takashi Miyake, 12- Jumpei Enomoto (c), 13- Seiichi Shimomura, 14- Tomoki Kitagawa and 15- Hiroshi Yamashita. Reserves: 16- Shota Horie, 17- Daisuke Tachikawa, 18- Yoichi Iijima, 19- Dai Kawaguchi, 20- Tony Brown, 21- Ryohei Miki and 22- Takashi Yoshida.


Ricoh: 1- Hideaki Takahashi, 2- Yoshiyuki Takizawa, 3- Yusuke Nagae, 4- Hiroyuki Tanuma, 5- Satoru Endo, 6- Ryota Ai, 7- Koji Ai, 8- Keigo Goto, 9- Wataru Ikeda (c), 10- Yoshimitsu Kawano, 11- Daisuke Komatsu, 12- Ryo Kanazawa, 13- Joel Wilson, 14- Yusuke Kobuki and 15- Stephen Larkham. Reserves: 16- Yuki Mori, 17- Tomoshige Sato, 18- Takayuki Inoue, 19- Keiichiro Suenaga, 20- Naotaka Yuasa, 21- Yasuharu Uryu and 22- Shinsuke Ikegami.



Preview: On paper at least, this game must be considered a miss-match with the second best Top League side in Sanyo up against Ricoh, who played in the regional Top East 11 competition this season. However, Ricoh showed in the second round with their heart-stopping 24-23 win over NEC that they should not be written off so easily.


Ricoh played in the first five seasons of Top League before suffering automatic relegation at the end of the 2007-8 season for finishing second last. Relegation was a wake up call for the company as they set about the process of regaining their place in Top League. Central to this revitalisation has been the new coaching regime under head coach Todd Louden and the acquisition of the likes of Wallabies legend Stephen Larkham and his former Brumbies team mate Joel Wilson. Ricoh went through their ten games in Top East undefeated and then won both their games in the Top Challenge series to gain promotion to Top League for 2009-10 and also qualify as the Top Challenger for the National Championship. In the first round of the Championship they drew 25-all with Teikyo University but thanks to the fact they out-scored the students 3 tries to 2 they managed to progress to the second round where they came back from a 16-7 halftime deficit to snatch victory from the more fancied NEC.


In the six years of the Top League era to date, Ricoh is only the second non-Top League side to make it as far as the semis after Waseda University got that far in 2006. Waseda lost to Toshiba on that occasion and so Ricoh will be hoping to do one better and be the first side outside of the Top League competition to make the final.


However, as defending national champion Sanyo are going to be extremely tough to overcome. Sanyo defeated Suntory 40-18 in the final last year and with Suntory already in the final with the withdrawal of Toshiba from the Championship; Sanyo will be aiming for a repeat performance. To achieve that end, Sanyo will first and foremost have to put down the challenge of Ricoh. Although the Black Rams are yet to taste defeat this season, this clash with Sanyo is going to be the toughest challenge they have faced all year.


Sanyo will field a strong side that includes Japan tight head prop Tomokazu Soma, the versatile Daniel Heenan at lock and Tongan-born No8 Koliniasi Ryu Holani in the forwards. The starting line-up in the backs is an all Japanese affair starting with the tricky Fumiaki Tanaka at halfback. Masakazu Irie will start at five-eight ahead of Tony Brown on the bench, while in the centres captain Jumpei Enomoto and Seiichi Shimomura will do the job with Tomoki Kitagawa and Takashi Miyake the wing pairing. Sanyo surely will look to dominate up front to lay the platform for their speedy backs to do their work.


On the other hand, Ricoh will have to match Sanyo in the forwards with their all Japanese pack through the likes of hooker Yoshiyuki Takizawa, veteran locks Hiroyuki Tanuma and Satoru Endo along with the Ai brothers, Ryota and Koji on the side of the scrum. Former Sanyo halfback Wataru Ikeda will start in the No.9 jersey as captain and he will be keen to put one over his former team mates. Outside him is the gutsy Yoshimitsu Kawano at five-eighth with Ryo Kanazawa and Joel Wilson in the centres, Daisuke Komatsu and Yusuke Kobuki on the wings with former Wallabies Stephen Larkham at the back. The forwards will have to compete well with their opposition if the likes of Larkham and the exciting runners in the Ricoh backline are to get any quality ball. Importantly too will be the stamina of the Ricoh side over 80 minutes of tough rugby.



Wrap-up: Playing in their alternative white jersey, Ricoh opened the scoring in this semi-final with a penalty to five-eighth Yoshimitsu Kawano in the opening minutes of the game. However, Sanyo scored the opening try of the match in the 11th minute from a deft cross kick from five-eighth Masakazu Irie that was scooped up by left wing Takashi Miyake who passed back inside for centre Seiichi Shimomura to touchdown unopposed. The Irie conversion attempt hit the upright but Sanyo put their noses in front for the first time at 5-3. Flanker Kieran Black crossed for the second Sanyo try in the 16th minute after the Knights used the width of the field to give the ball plenty of air. This time, Irie landed the conversion from out wide on the left hand side of the field to push his side out to a 12-3 lead.


In the 27th minute veteran Ricoh second rower Hiroyuki Tanuma was sinbinned which gave Sanyo the advantage of an extra man. Sanyo opted for a scrum for the penalty and from the ensuing play Korean international lock Young-Nam Yu crossed for the third Sanyo try. Irie landed the conversion to open up a 19-6 lead. In the 34th minute replacement hooker Shota Horie was rewarded with a try for backing up and running straight. Irie again made sure of the conversion to push the score out to 26-3. Elusive halfback Fumiaki Tanaka caught the defence napping just before the break from a lineout inside the Ricoh 22 to nip in under posts to close the scoring in the first half. The Irie conversion saw the teams go to halftime with Sanyo enjoying a 33-3 lead.


Ricoh kicked off to get the second half under way with a big task in front of them. From a lineout near halfway in the third minute of play, Sanyo spread the ball right with centre Shimomura eventually finding his way to the Ricoh goal line for his second try. Again, Irie was on target with the conversion to extend the lead to 40-3. Then, Irie was in for a try himself in the 6th minute and his conversion took the scoreboard to 47-3. In the 10th minute Tony Brown was introduced to the game for Sanyo to give him valuable game time. Brown made his presence felt in the 20th minute when he scored a try by grounding the ball against the base of a goalpost. Irie missed the conversion but Sanyo were out to a 52-3 lead. Hooker Mitsugu Yamamoto scored the next Sanyo try when he was lurking out on the end of the backline in the 29th minute of the half. Irie kicked the conversion for a 59-3 lead. In the end, this was the final score line as Sanyo defeated Ricoh 59-3 to book their place in the final next week against Suntory.



Second round:

Sunday, 15 February 2009.


Game 5 – Suntory Sungoliath (TL 3) 59 d Waseda University (Uni 1) 20,

Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground, Tokyo.

Kick-off: 2:10 PM.

Referee: Masahiro Sakuraoka.

Attendance: 14, 011.

Halftime: Suntory 24 – Waseda 6.


In the first round, Suntory beat Kubota 62-17 and Waseda beat Tamariba Club 55-13 to progress to the second round. Suntory coach Katsuyuki Kiyomiya coached Waseda from 2001 to 2006 winning the University Championship three times along the way before moving to the Sungoliath two years ago and so he will be very familiar with the Waseda set up. Furthermore, a number of the Suntory players are relatively recent graduates of Waseda, for example, captain and wing Daigo Yamashita, prop Kensuke Hatakeyama, hooker Yusuke Aoki and five-eighth Yoshinori Sogabe and so they will know what to expect from the students. On the other hand, Waseda will try to use their speed and youthful enthusiasm to out smart Suntory, but that should prove to be a very difficult task.


Suntory scored 8 tries to 2 to defeat Waseda 59-20 in this second round clash. The Sungoliath lead all the way after opening up a 24-0 lead midway through the first half with tries to wing Hirotoki Onozawa, fullback Yasunori Nagatomo and halfback Kiyonori Tanaka. Inside centre Ryan Nicholas also landed three conversions and a penalty. Waseda got on the scoreboard with two late penalties to fullback Hideki Tanabe to go to the break 24-6 in arrears.


Suntory started off the second half in the same bright way they started the first half with further tries to right wing Junichi Hojo and prop Takashi Hayashi. Nicholas converted both tries to open up a 38-6 lead to all but wrap up the game as a contest. Around the hour mark, Waseda scored their first five-pointer through halfback Kosuke Enomoto with Tanabe adding the extras to help narrow the gap to 38-13. However, Suntory responded with a second try to Onozawa, again converted by Nicholas to further push out the lead to 45-13. Waseda captain and No8 Masakazu Toyota led from the front with the second try to the students in the 70th minute but Suntory closed out the match with late tries to No8 Juntaro Takemoto and lock Takahiro Hayano. Nicholas again landed the conversions to make it a perfect day with the boot for a personal tally of 19 points for the match.


Game 6 – Ricoh Black Rams (Top Challenger) 24 d NEC Green Rockets (TL 5) 23,

Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground, Tokyo.

Kick-off: 12:00 PM.

Referee: Minoru Fuji.

Attendance: 11, 257.

Halftime: NEC 16 – Ricoh 7.

Yellow Cards: Ryota Ai (Ricoh No.6), Tomo Yasuda (NEC, No.5).


Ricoh topped the Top East 11 competition and then won the Top Challenge Series to earn their place in the National Championship. In the first round Ricoh did it the hard way when they drew with Teikyo University 25-all. It was only because they scored 3 tries to one that they were able to move on to the second round. Head coach Todd Louden has promised a better performance from the Rams this week if they are to stand a chance of beating NEC. NEC finished fifth in Top League and this qualified the Green Rockets for the National Championship. NEC left it to the last moments of their first round clash with fourth placed Top League side Kobe to come from behind and take the game 30-29. However, that was enough to keep their hopes alive of taking out their first national title since they shared the title with Toshiba in 2006 when they drew the final 6-all.


Ricoh sprang the upset of the second round when they came back from 16-7 down at halftime to hold on long enough to beat NEC by the slimmest of margins at 24-23. Ricoh drew with Teikyo University 25-all in the first round and only progressed due to the fact that they outscored the students 3 tries to 2. However, the bar was well and truly raised for the clash with fifth placed Top League side NEC. In a reversal of fortunes, NEC stormed home over the closing stages of their first round match against Kobe to steal the game 30-29, but this week they were on the losing side of the one point score line.


In the opening minutes of the first half, NEC opened up a 10 point lead through a try to centre Yuya Mizuta and a conversion and a penalty to Takeshi Matsuo playing at five-eighth. At this stage it looked like NEC might run away with the game, but Ricoh stayed in contact with a try to inside centre Joel Wilson which was converted by five-eighth Yoshimitsu Kawano. Matsuo kicked two penalties for NEC over the second quarter of the match to increase the lead to 16-7, while Ricoh finished the half with 14 players after flanker Ryota Ai was sinbinned.


Kawano was in the thick of the action in the early exchanges of the second half scoring the second try of the match for Ricoh inside the opening minute. He converted his own try and then kicked a penalty at the ten minute mark to push Ricoh in front for the first time a 17-16. The lead was extended when wing Daisuke Komatsu crossed for the third Ricoh try in the 35th minute. Kawano landed the all important conversion to open up an eight point gap at 24-16, meaning NEC had to score twice to win. In the scrambling closing stages of the match, NEC No8 Takuro Miuchi scored a try and replacement back Jaco van der Westhuyzen kicked the conversion, but the Green Rockets were out of time and luck as Ricoh ran out ultimate winners 24-23.



First round:

Saturday, 7 February 2009.

Four games involving all teams except Toshiba and Sanyo as the top two Top League finishers.


Game 1 - Suntory (TL 3) 62 d Kubota (TL 6) 17, Hanazono in Osaka at 2:00 PM.

Suntory finished third on the final Top League table with 51 points from 10 wins and 3 losses and they are set to meet Kubota who finished sixth on 37 points from 8 wins and 5 losses. In round 3 Suntory beat Kubota 36-25 in Tokyo, so the Sungoliath will be trying to back up for a second win over the Spears this season. Suntory lost their Microsoft Cup semi-final 32-22 to Sanyo last weekend whereas Kubota played their last game 3 weeks ago in round 13 on 18 January. In what promises to be a tight game, the difference might just come down to the form of the respective kickers in centre Ryan Nicholas for Suntory and five-eighth Shane Drahm for Kubota.


In the end, Suntory ran out convincing winners over Kubota 62-17. Rebounding from their Microsoft Cup semi-final loss to Sanyo last weekend, the Sungoliath scored 9 tries to 2 after leading 31-10 at the break. Captain and wing, Daigo Yamashita scored two of the tries while centre Ryan Nicholas contributed with 7 conversions and a penalty.


Game 2 - Waseda (Uni 1) 55 d Tamariba Club (Club Champion) 13, Chichibu in Tokyo at 2:00 PM.

Waseda University and the Tamariba Club have met on a number of occasions at the same stage of the National Championship in recent years. Last year in 2008 Waseda won 48-0, while the students also ran out winners 47-7 in 2006 and 59-5 in 2005. The speed and fitness of the student game should again be too much for Tamariba.


Waseda made it to the next round with a convincing 55-13 win over Tamariba. The students scored 9 tries to 2 and led 19-5 at halftime. Fitness told in the second half with Waseda running in six further tries to blow out the final score line. Captain and No8 Masakazu Toyota scored two early tries while centre Katsuyuki Sakai also picked up a double.


Game 3 - Teikyo (Uni 2) 25 drew with Ricoh (Top Challenger) 25, Chichibu in Tokyo at 12:00 PM.

Teikyo played in their first ever university final when they went down to Waseda on 10 January and now they back up for their first National Championship since the expanded 22-man tournament in 2004. The students are facing a resurgent Ricoh at a time when they boast the likes of former Wallabies Stephen Larkham in their ranks and thus the power and experience of the company side should prove to be too much for the students.


Although the final score was 25-all, under the tournament rules the team that scores more tries is declared the winner. With Ricoh scoring 3 tries to 2 this was enough for the Black Rams to progress to the next round. Centre Ryo Kanazawa picked up a double for Ricoh with two touchdowns while fullback Hikaru Funatsu kept the students in the game with five penalties. Unfortunately though, Funatsu was forced from the field late in the game with cramp and a penalty attempt for his replacement Daiki Numajiri at the death fell short that resulted in the draw.


Game 4 - NEC (TL 5) 30 d Kobe (TL 4) 29, Hanazono in Osaka at 12:00 PM.

Kobe finished fourth on the final Top League table with 43 points from 9 wins and 4 loses and they take on NEC who finished fifth on 37 points from 8 wins and 5 losses. Kobe beat NEC 20-10 way back in round one in Osaka in early September and this game has the feel about it that it could go either way. Kobe lost 26-7 to Toshiba in a semi-final of the Microsoft Cup last weekend whereas NEC played their last game 3 weeks ago in round 13 on 18 January.


NEC stormed home over the closing stages of this game after they trailed 29-20 at the 24th minute of the second half. A converted try to Nili Latu and then an opportunist drop goal from fullback Takeshi Matsuo in the 36th minute allowed NEC to come over the top and steal the game 30-29.





The Grubber Kick

The Grubber Kick brings the reader weekly news shorts, gossip and general happenings from the world of Rugby in Japan.


IRB ranking on 23 February 2009 - Japan was 16 (68.05).


Back-chat: Japan to Pillage the NRL! Headlines of this sort have been doing the rounds this week in the Australian press as a number of prominent names in rugby league have been linked with corporate teams here in Japan. In the opinion of Grubber the threat that Japanese company teams are going to ransack the elite ranks of league are totally unfounded and have been blown out of all proportion.


The favourable AUD-JPY exchange rates for Japanese companies importing players at the moment and the possibility that Japan could be looking ahead to secure overseas players under the 3-year residency rule to be eligible to play for Japan at the 2011 RWC in NZ have grounds, but the likely Japanese companies to attack are far from numerous and hardly orchestrated by the impotent JRFU.


To be sure, Fraser Anderson has signed with Kobe and Benji Marshall and Karmichael Hunt have been linked with Sanyo and Suntory respectively but the NRL is quickly moving to cut off the Japan option for the latter pair. That leaves one confirmed signing at this stage amidst the hysteria and scare mongering, hardly a mass exodus that is going to decimate the league ranks. League has been losing players to domestic Australian rugby as well as European clubs and the Japan threat is simply one arrow in the quiver.


One only has to look at the business pages in newspapers or on-line news services to realise that all is not well in corporate Japan. IBM, World and Secom have all but pulled out of rugby and the ground is starting to look a thin under the boots of the company rugby system. Japanese company rugby is becoming more and more a case of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ with only about seven of the fourteen Top League teams really in it to win it. Toshiba, Suntory, Sanyo, Kobe, Yamaha, NEC, Toyota and possibly Kubota are in a league of their own with the other seven teams, along with every other company team in the land well and truly behind the eight ball. This means that the companies prepared to part with as much as AUD1 million a season for one league player are like hens teeth. The reality too is that these figures are grabbed out of the air by the headline makers and player agents back in Australia and are grossly over-inflated.




Waratahs fullback Sam Norton-Knight (25) is coming off contract at the end of the current S14 season and the rumour has it Japanese clubs are sniffing around. If it is not Japan than it could well be the Cardiff Blues in Wales.


What exactly is going on in Aussie leaguie land? First it was West Tigers Benji Marshall coming to Japan, then it was Brisbane Broncos fullback Karmichael Hunt (22) and now it is 100kg Cronulla utility back, NZ-born Fraser Anderson (24). Rumour has it Anderson has signed a 2-year deal with Kobe Steelers worth about AUD400,000~500,000 a season. His Cronulla bosses were not impressed and he was cut loose from the remaining year with the Sharkies. It seems the exchange rate at the moment is good for Japan in the player market while there is also the hint that Japan is looking ahead to the 2011 RWC with overseas players like Anderson that will squeeze in under the 3 year qualification period for the Cherry Blossoms.


The NRL is certainly in the sights of various rugby raiding parties of late and not just from Japan. Of course, Mark Gasnier, Craig Gower and Sonny Bill Williams are playing in France while the S14 franchises have also been busy with former Raiders back Mark McLinden (29) having been recruited by the Reds along with former Melbourne Stormer Will Chambers (20). Of course, Timana Tahu is now in his second season with the Waratahs. Not to be outdone, the ARU has also come out in the press with its intentions of plundering the junior league ranks with former Rooster Shaun Foley (22) now in the Australian Sevens squad. Former Cronulla bad boy Greg Bird (25) has also crossed the floor to play with Southern Districts.


Still more on Benji Marshall. Sanyo and possibly even Suntory are the names coming up as possible landing sites for the Kiwi and yes, the man who advises to all rugby clubs known to mankind, a Mr E Jones is what else, an adviser!


Not to be outdone, Karmichael Hunt is also being linked to Suntory.


Grubber reported recently that Kobe wing Daisuke Ohata (33) needed an operation on his left shoulder. Ohata is the world test try scoring record holder with 69 tries but his playing career has been thwarted over the past few years when he ruptured first one and then the other Achilles tendon, the latter denying him a place at the 2007 RWC. Strive as he may, he has struggled to find the form of old and the shoulder op looked like ending his career point blank. Well, he came out in the press this week stating he would turn out for one more season in the 2009-10 Top League season in an attempt to out on his own terms.




The Draw

The Draw gives the reader future dates for the diary and other great things to look forward to.



RiJ mentioned that 2009 is going to be busy. Listed below are some of the reasons why…



Japan will participate in the following Sevens events in 2009 -


The 5th IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009:

To be held in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates from Thursday 5 to Saturday 7 March 2009.

Twenty-four nations will take part in the men’s RWC which will be the fifth since its inception in 1993. Meanwhile, 16 nations will compete in the first ever women’s RWC. Both the Japan men’s and women’s teams qualified for the Dubai event by winning their respective qualifying tournaments in Hong Kong in October this year.


Men’s Teams:

Of the 24 participating nations, the eight quarterfinalists from 2005 automatically qualified along with host the Arabian Gulf, while the 15 remaining nations qualified through qualification rounds.


The competing countries are: Fiji, NZ, England, SA, Australia, France, Scotland, Argentina, Arabian Gulf, Uruguay, Portugal, Wales, Georgia, Ireland, Italy, Samoa, Tonga, Japan, Hong Kong, USA, Canada, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Tunisia.


Men’s Pools:

There are 24 countries in 6 pools of 4 teams. The six pool winners and the best two runners-up proceed to the Melrose Cup knock-out stages.










S. Africa










Arabian Gulf










Hong Kong




IRB Hong Kong Sevens:

27-29 March 2009 in Hong Kong.



There are 24 countries in 6 pools of 4 teams.








S. Africa




















Sri Lanka

Hong Kong

Chinese Taipei

West Indies


Day 1: Friday, 27 March 2009

Game 11: 20:38 - Wales v Japan.


Day 2: Saturday, 28 March 2009

Game 23: 14:10 - England v Japan.

Game 29: 16:22 - China v Japan.


Day 3: Sunday, 29 March 2009



IRB Australia Sevens:

4-5 April 2009 in Adelaide.

Teams (16): Argentina, Australia, Cook Islands, England, Fiji, France, Kenya, NZ, Portugal, Scotland, SA, USA and Wales.



Oxbridge Tour to Japan 2009:

A combined Oxford-Cambridge team is set to tour Japan in March 2009. The tour is also helping to promote the 150th anniversary of the opening of the port of Yokohama, the 150th anniversary of the founding of Keio University and the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Kanto Gakuin University.


Sunday, 22 March: All-KGU v Oxbridge, at the Mitsuzawa Stadium in Yokohama. Kick-off at 2:00 PM.

Saturday, 28 March: All-Keio v Oxbridge, at the Mitsuzawa Stadium in Yokohama. Kick-off at 2:00 PM.



Japan Schoolboys Tour to England 2009:

The Japan Schoolboys are set to tour England in March 2009.


Sunday, 22 March: England U18 v Japan Schools, in Plymouth.

Wednesday, 25 March: Leicester Tigers Academy v Japan Schools, in Plymouth.

Sunday, 29 March: England U18 v Japan Schools, in Exeter.



The 10th Sanix World Rugby Youth Invitational Tournament 2009:

This annual high school tournament is again set for the Golden Week period from 27 April to 6 May at the Global Arena in Munakata in Fukuoka. Eight overseas schools chosen by their respective unions compete with eight top Japanese schools. Four of the local schools are chosen from Kyushu with the remaining four schools from other parts of Japan.

Overseas Schools: Prairiewood High (Australia), Ivybridge Community College (England), Hamilton BHS (NZ).

Japanese Schools:



Asian Five Nations 2009:

April-May 2009.


Now in its second year, the Asian Five Nations 2009 involves defending champion Japan, along with Korea, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan and Singapore. Singapore won Division 1 and replaces the Arabian Gulf in the Top Five division for 2009.


Week 1

Saturday, 25 April 2009:

Japan v Kazakhstan, Hanazono, 3:00 PM.

Korea v Singapore, Tancheon Sports Complex, 2:00 PM.


Week 2

Saturday, 2 May 2009:

Hong Kong v Japan, HKFC, 4:00 PM.

Kazakhstan v Korea, Central Stadium, 4:00 PM.


Week 3

Saturday, 9 May 2009:

Singapore v Kazakhstan, Yio Chu Kang Stadium, 5:00 PM.

Korea v Hong Kong, Tancheon Sports Complex, 2:00 PM.


Week 4

Saturday, 16 May 2009:

Japan v Korea, Hanazono, 3:00 PM.

Hong Kong v Singapore, HKFC, 4:00 PM.


Week 5

Saturday, 23 May 2009:

Singapore v Japan. Yio Chu Kang Stadium, 5:00 PM.

Kazakhstan v Hong Kong, Central Stadium, 4:00 PM.



IRB Junior World Championship Japan 2009:

5-21 June 2009


Pools -

Pool A: NZ, Argentina, Ireland, Uruguay.

At the Mizuho Rugby Stadium in Nagoya.


Day 1: Friday, 5 June 2009.

Argentina v Ireland, 5:00 pm.

NZ v Uruguay, 7:00 PM.


Day 2: Tuesday, 9 June 2009.

Argentina v Uruguay, 5:00 pm.

Ireland v NZ, 7:00 PM.


Day 3: Saturday 13 June 2009.

Ireland v Uruguay, 1:00 pm.

Argentina v NZ, 3:00 PM.



Pool B: England, Samoa, Scotland, Japan.

At the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo.


Day 1: Friday, 5 June 2009.

Samoa v Scotland, 5:00 pm.

England v Japan, 7:00 PM.


Day 2: Tuesday, 9 June 2009.

England v Scotland, 5:00 pm.

Japan v Samoa, 7:00 PM.


Day 3: Saturday 13 June 2009.

England v Samoa, 1:00 pm.

Japan v Scotland, 3:00 PM.



Pool C: SA, France, Italy, Fiji.

At the Kintetsu Hanazono Rugby Ground in Osaka.


Day 1: Friday, 5 June 2009.

France v Italy, 1:00 pm.

Fiji v SA, 3:00 PM.


Day 2: Tuesday, 9 June 2009.

Fiji v France, 1:00 pm.

Italy v SA, 3:00 PM.


Day 3: Saturday 13 June 2009.

Fiji v Italy, 1:00 pm.

France v SA, 3:00 PM.



Pool D: Wales, Australia, Canada, Tonga.

At the Best Amenity Stadium in Saga.


Day 1: Friday, 5 June 2009.

Australia v Canada, 5:00 pm.

Tonga v Wales, 7:00 PM.


Day 2: Tuesday, 9 June 2009.

Australia v Tonga, 5:00 pm.

Canada v Wales, 7:00 PM.


Day 3: Saturday 13 June 2009.

Canada v Tonga, 1:00 pm.

Australia v Wales, 3:00 PM.



Knock-out stages

Group 1: At the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo.

Group 2: At the Level 5 Stadium in Fukuoka.

Group 3: At the Kintetsu Hanazono Rugby Ground in Osaka.

Group 4: At the Mizuho Rugby Stadium in Nagoya.

NB: all knock-out games held on Wednesday 17 & Sunday 21 June 2009.



IRB Pacific Nations Cup 2009:

June 2009.


Now in its fourth year, the IRB Pacific Nations Cup 2009 involves the Junior All Blacks (JAB) from New Zealand, the three island nations Fiji, Samoa and Tonga along with Japan. The JAB replace the Maori for 2009, while Australia A will not participate in this year’s tournament.


The tournament this year is to be held in Fiji rather than the home and away format of the three previous years.


Round 1:

Friday, 12 June 2009: Samoa v JAB, Apia, 4:00 PM.

Saturday, 13 June 2009: Tonga v Fiji, in Tonga, 12:00 PM.


Round 2:

Thursday, 18 June 2009: JAB v Fiji, National Stadium, 3:10 PM.

Thursday, 18 June 2009: Japan v Samoa, Lawaqa Park, 3:10 PM.


Round 3:

Tuesday, 23 June 2009: Samoa v Tonga, Churchill Park, 12:10 PM.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009: Japan v JAB, Churchill Park, 3:10 PM.


Round 4:

Saturday, 27 June 2009: Tonga v Japan, Churchill Park, 12:10 PM.

Saturday, 27 June 2009: Samoa v Fiji, Churchill Park, 3:10 PM.


Round 5:

Thursday, 2 July 2009: Tonga v JAB, Churchill Park, 3:10 PM.

Friday, 3 July 2009: Fiji v Japan, National Stadium, 3:10 PM.




IRB RWCs 2015 and 2019:

Host nations to make presentations on 13 May 2009 in Dublin followed by announcements to be made at IRB HQ in Dublin on 28 July 2009.


At this stage, the rumour is coming out of the JRFU that the Japan Union is more interested in hosting 2019 rather than 2015. England has come out of the blocks hard with its bid for 2015 and this is putting the jitters through the JRFU. Further, Japan is baulking at the money the IRB requires the host nation to cough up for the rights. For 2015 the price is 80 million pounds and for 2019 it is 96 million pounds. Japan is not in a position to receive government financial assistant or guarantees for such events under law so the Union will be scratching its collective head on how to raise the dough. England and the RFU received a boost for their solo bid with the support of PM Gordon Brown on 19 February 2009. South Africa (3 February 2009) and Italy (28 February 2009) have received guarantees of financial backing from their respective governments.


Eight Unions are bidding for 2015 (England, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Scotland, South Africa, Wales) while the number bidding for 2019 (Ireland, Italy, Japan, Scotland, South Africa, Wales) has been reduced to seven with the withdrawal of Russia on 16 February 2009.


Japan A Tour:

There is a proposed tour for Japan A in the second half of July 2009, though details unavailable as yet.


Bledisloe Cup:

Rumour has it a fourth Bledisloe Cup game for 2009 will be played in Tokyo in September.


Super Powers Cup:

At this stage there is the proposal to revive the concept of the Super Powers Cup involving Japan, the USA, Canada and Russia for the November window.