Tag Archives: rugby

Wake up Japan, this is bigger than the Olympics

Well technically not, as it’s only the third biggest global sporting event. A mere 20 nations qualifying after an exhaustive elimination process, however, the tournament is three times longer at six-weeks and 12 venues from Hokkaido to Kyushu. The influx of foreign invaders will be the greatest since Commodore Perry’s arrival in 1853 at Shimoda.

Pools RWC2019
The four Pools of five competing for a place in the knockout series.

Perennial favourites the All Blacks from New Zealand will be looking for an unprecedented three-peat, having won the last two incarnations in 2011 & 2015. Although, Ireland will go into the tournament as World No. 1, due to the quirky World Rugby algorithm that determines placings. Never before have the ‘Men in Green’ made a RWC Final, although their Quarter-Final match against RWC1991 winners, the Wallabies, at Landsdown Road will go down as ‘the one that got away‘.

The teams descending on Japan, somewhat delayed due to Typhoon Faxai, should be embraced by the Japanese populous along with the tsunami of international supporters. Rugby people are a different breed: beer-swilling aficionados as opposed to football (soccer in the English speaking world outside of England) hooligans. They will appreciate the culture, the ceremonies, the nature and the history that abounds there; as well as the onsen or hot springs, the most renowned are found in Beppu, Kyushu; with matches played in Oita, including two very important quarter-finals, these are a must-see (map below).Beppu Area Map

Visiting Japan 12 months out from the Rugby World Cup I got a sense that the ‘general’ Japanese population were somewhat unaware of the tournament. When questioned they would reply with, “Tokyo 2020?” Just last week at a theme park on the Gold Coast some university students visiting from Japan on their summer break in Australia looked puzzled when I said I was going to Japan for the Rugby World Cup (admittedly, they were from Ibaraki Prefecture, an hour or so north of Tokyo on the Joban Line, where no matches are being played). Also in Australia, when people ask why I am going to Japan the response often is, “Do they play rugby in Japan?

Undoubtedly, when RWC2019 begins this Friday at Ajinomoto Stadium the vast majority will get on board. Not everyone is a diehard rugby fan, but when a spectacle such as the Rugby World Cup is on your doorstep you can be assured that the populous will respond and Japanese ‘omotenashi‘ (hospitality) will come to the fore. At the 2015 tournament, 25 million in Japan tuned in to watch Japan v Samoa on their television sets, so the interest is there. The other takeout from that tournament held in the UK was the 34-32 last-minute win over the Springboks by the Japanese Brave Blossoms; recreated in cinema with the just-released “Miracle in Brighton“.

CJ at Ajinomoto Stadium
CJ last year at Ajinomoto Stadium, Tokyo.

Rugby Union has a long history in Japan dating from 1866 in Yokohama and, while being more popular in the universities, the company based Top League has started to attract larger crowds. Unfortunately, Japan’s Super Rugby team the Sunwolves will be axed from the competition after the 2020 season, though I’m sure their company based Top League will eventually open up to international teams from Hong Kong and Perth (convincing the JRFU will be a challenge, though).

All and all this bodes well for a spectacular tournament that I am very much looking forward to attending. 楽しみですネ‼match_schedule_2019may001.jpeg

 

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Rugby in the Regions

Having returned from just over a month in North Queensland, I am buoyed by the fact that the boutique sport of rugby union in Australia is growing healthily in the regional areas of Queensland. Despite not being able to watch my beloved Queensland Reds play Super Rugby on one of Townsville’s The Ville Casino’s numerous television screens, I did encounter plenty of diehard rugby people in FNQ, none more so than my mate Severin “Bunny” Andreassen from Brothers Cairns, now the President of Brothers Juniors in Townsville. His son Jack is a rugby development officer for Townsville and District Rugby Union (TDRU) and shows a passion for the game like his father. I watched him play a spirited match for Brothers’ 1st Grade side against a strong Teachers-West at Mike Carney Toyota Park (above, where I had played myself for a Brisbane Colts v North Queensland side, back in the day).

The Ville
The Ville Casino, Townsville

Club rugby in Townsville has this year seen the merger of Western Districts with James Cook University (JCU) which Wests President, Athol Giddens, told me was a much needed shot in the arm for both clubs -especially since JCU had recently started a rugby league team. The 2019 amalgamation has provided a junior club for JCU to develop players from and proper training facilities, with lighting –far superior to Wests‘ previous locations, I was told. I watched them going through their paces at the university under the guidance of Kiwi ex-pat, Campbell Yates, whom Giddens would like to have several of. “The main issue is finding quality coaches and getting them accredited with Level 1 and 2 coaching certificates from the QRU,” Giddens said.Western Suburbs Townsville

The tyranny of distance is always an issue in the bush. However, they are rugged people up north and travelling over an hour one way for a Saturday fixture is not unheard of. Charters Towers is over an hour and a half away and they are in the Townsville competition, along with Burdekin and Ingham. Brothers Townsville are traditionally the stronghold, though lately Teachers-West has built up their ranks and have two quality backs in Curtis Rayment and Josh Fletcher. Both these local boys orchestrated Teachers’ 54-0 win over a young Brothers side, in a match where plenty of passion was on display.

During my time in Townsville, I also met Brolgas stalwart coach, John Rauch, for many lunchtime conversations at the school we were both teaching at. Originally from New South Wales, he has taken a passionate interest in the rugby scene in North Queensland over the past 30 odd years, playing for Brothers Townsville before being involved in coaching. Every two years, around Easter, Rauch takes a representative side from Townsville, under the Brolgas banner, to Japan to play select schools over there. Later this year, he will take a team from The Cathedral School to Europe for rugby union matches -another bi-annual trip he organises at his school.

The Cathedral School
The Cathedral School is a 100-year-old co-ed boarding school in Townsville.

Last week, the Queensland Junior State Championships were held at Downlands College in Toowoomba. It was great to see representative teams from all over the State, including the Brolgas from Townsville. One of my students who I had seen play in Townsville made the U13 Brolgas side which I was pretty chuffed about. Next month we see Townsville host the annual Queensland School Sport (QSS) 11-12 years rugby union championship, which bodes well for the future of our code. In a rugby league stronghold, ‘the game they play in heaven’ is in good hands.

Cowboy supporters at Dairy Farmers
The NRL Cowboys are a big deal in North Queensland

 

Junior Wallabies Win the Spoils Ahead of the U20 Championships In Argentina

Last Saturday, Australia’s generation next stepped up to the plate to defeat the All Blacks U20s for the first time in the Oceania Rugby U20s Championships at Bond University on the Gold Coast. The four nation comp, including Fiji and Japan, that played their final match at 5pm, was a great success. In front of a strong crowd of 2,136 people, a changing of the guard, so to speak, was on display as the Junior Wallabies, coached by Jason Gilmore, kept their Kiwi counterparts scoreless with a 24-0 victory. Such luminaries as World Rugby CEO, Brett Gosper, and Gold Coast Mayor, Tom Tate, were on hand to witness the spectacle.

Led by captain Fraser McReight from the Brothers club in Brisbane and a Reds contracted player, the Junior Wallabies worked hard to keep the Kiwis scoreless, going to the sheds after the first 40 minutes up 12-0 from four penalty kicks by Randwick No. 10, Will Harrison. Two tries in the second half, including a spectacular cross kick to Junior Wallaby winger Triston Reilly to score and captain courageous, Fraser McReight crashing over in the 71st minute sealed the 24-0 victory ahead of the U20s World Championships in Argentina next month, June 4th~22nd.

Junior Wallabies Captain, Fraser McReight crashes over. Photo courtesy of Oceania Rugby

“I don’t think an Under 20s side has ever done that (win against New Zealand) in a very long time and we can take confidence in that, and that’s so unreal and I can’t wait for the future, and I can’t wait to win that Junior Rugby World Cup .”

Junior Wallabies captain, Fraser McReight

Such a great tournament run by Oceania Rugby and Rugby Australia and hosted by the magnificent facilities at Bond University. Real credit to Director of Rugby at Bond, Luca Luisse, and his team for once again providing such great support which hopefully bodes well for the continuation of this tournament. World Rugby boss Brett Gosper was particularly impressed by the facilities Bond University has to offer.

“The facilities here at Bond (University) are really first class.

Wonderful grounds, what a beautiful setting for a rugby game like this.”

Brett Gosper, World Rugby CEO.

The Japanese side captained by Shota Fukui, who also scored the first try in the 6th minute, put up a strong showing to hold the Fijians to the narrowest of leads, 28-27, by the halftime mark. As the second half began, a penalty kick by mercurial fly-half, Rintaro Maruyama, saw the young Brave Blossoms ahead 30-28. Then the Fijians ran ahead, initially breaking the deficit in the 51st minute through their speedy fullback, Ratu Osea Waqaninavatu, to make the score 35-30, then a further four more tries to win 59-37 after one of Japan’s best on the field player, industrious No. 8 Takamasa Muruo, scored his third try of the match in the 73rd minute. Gosper and myself were impressed by the tenacity of the relatively smaller Japanese side’s awesome tackling display against the larger South Pacific Islanders. It was great to see Japan back in this tournament, after a hiatus since 2015; hopefully, they are a part of the setup next year (provided Bond University is once again granted hosting status from Oceania Rugby).

Junior Japan’s Head Coach Yoshitake Mizuma said ahead of this year’s Championship that it is a privilege to be able to compete with the world’s best teams in this age-grade.

We hope that our boys take advantage of this occasion to foster camaraderie through rugby, interact with many local people and learn about each other’s culture so as to grow as a person,” Mizuma added

CJ with Japanese U20 Captain, Shota Fukui. Photo by David Kapernick @brisbanerugby.com

Final Day of the U20s Oceania Championships: Japan v Fiji

On only the fourth day of the new Japanese “Reiwa” Era the U20s final day was upon us. In slight overcast conditions the Japanese took on Fiji at 5pm. Perched up in the Bond University stands with World Rugby CEO, Brett Gosper, we were treated to a fast entertaining match to open the final day of proceedings of the 8-day Oceania Rugby U20’s Championships on the Gold Coast. Despite a distinct size difference, the Japanese were tenacious matching the Fijians to hold them to a one-point lead, 28-27, by the halftime hooter, with their scrum a dominant feature of the half. This scrum ascendancy wreaked havoc shortly into the second stanza garnishing an early penalty for Japan to re-take the lead, 30-28, before eventually succumbing to the South-Pacific Islanders to go down 59-37 by the end of the 80 minutes in a high scoring encounter.

The strong crowd of 2000+ were spellbound by the pace of the first match of the evening with the Japanese captain, Shota Fukui, showing why he is a part of the Robbie Deans coached Panasonic Wild Knights by scoring in the 6th minute off a line-out drive 5 meters out, and mercurial fly-half Rintaro Maruyama’s conversion had the men in red & white taking the early lead 7-0 over their more fancied Pacific Island counterparts. Not to be outdone, two minutes later smart Fijian halfback, Josh Akariva Isaiah Vutu, was in under the posts after taking a quick penalty tap to equalise the score at 7-all. By the 13th minute Fiji was in again with inside-centre, Ilaisa Droasese, stepping through the bamboozled Japanese back-line to cross the paint putting Fiji ahead, for the first time in the match, 14-7. However, the dominate Japanese scrum forced a pushover try to impressive Japanese No. 8, Takamasa Maruo, and this dominance continued for ever present Captain Fukui to bag a double to see the Rising Sun team back in the lead, 19-14, halfway through the first stanza. Two tries to Fiji flanker, Vilive Miramira, which were both converted put them in a commanding position at 28-19; not before Maruo made a break off a Fijian mistake on attack from his own side of halfway and showing a clean pair of heels, raced 60 meters for his double on the stroke of halftime to take his team to the sheds down only 28-27.

Only a few minutes into the second half, the Japanese scrum ascendancy forced Fiji to transgress on their feed as the No. 8, Aminaisi Tiritabua Shaw, was stood up, allowing Japan’s No. 10, Maruyama, to slot the penalty goal from 35 meters out to put Japan ahead 30-28. Despite the fearless Japanese defence and their scrum superiority, the Fijians ran in four unanswered tries, firstly through speedy fullback Ratu Osea Waqaninavatu in the 51st minute followed by both wingers, including a double to Osea Joji Natoga, to stamp their mark on the match going ahead 52-30 with only 10 minutes left on the clock. Japan’s industrious No. 8, Maruo, was not finished troubling the scorers with his hat-trick try from a quick thinking tap in the 73rd minute, combined with Maruyama’s successful conversion the score read 52-37. The coup de grâce came two minutes later with replacement Fijian hooker, Lino Mairara Vasuinadi, powering over. Final score 59-37. A very high scoring and exhilarating display that bodes well for the World Rugby U20 Championships in Argentina next month, June 4th~22nd.

“It feels really good. We came out a bit slow today, but then eventually we overcame (this) and we did the little things right. And the scoreboard tells it all.”


Fiji Captain, Tevita Ikanivere, after the match.

Japan U20s captain, Shota Fukui, was obviously upset by the valiant effort shown by his team and said, “I’m disappointed (of the loss), due to all the support we are receiving from people back in Japan.”

Are the Japanese Serious About Improving Rugby?

With Japan being awarded this year’s Rugby World Cup, you could be thinking that the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) would be going out of their way to promote the game. On closer inspection it looks like quite the opposite.

Firstly, the JRFU basically cancelled the Top League Competition for the 2019-20 season, replacing it with two mini tourneys in 2020. Then they told SANZAAR in March that they really didn’t think Super Rugby was the best way to develop the national side and now former Prime Minister, Yoshiro Mori, call’s for the JRFU to be reformed after announcing his shock resignation last week as the organisation’s honorary chairman. He is the man responsible for Japan hosting RWC2019.

Mori-san is not the only one at odds with the JRFU, as former Japan national coach, Eddie Jones, reiterated with Kyodo News in Japan, yesterday, his opinion regarding the JRFU allowing the Japanese side the Sunwolves to be disabandoned after the 2020 Super Rugby season.

If Japan wants to be a top 10 country in the world, which they do, they need their players to be prepared,” the current England coach, Jones, said.

The purpose of the Sunwolves was to give opportunities for young Japanese players to prepare for test rugby, because ultimately like any rugby country you want your national team to be strong and your grassroots to be strong, and in between you work out the right structure.

What Japan was missing was that opportunity for younger players to go from a good domestic Top League into a higher level of competition without being exposed to test level, and the Sunwolves provided that opportunity. It hasn’t worked out for them and I think it is a massive opportunity missed.

Eddie Jones speaking with Kyodo News’ Rich Freeman in Yokohama.

LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 19: Eddie Jones the head coach of England looks on during the Old Mutual Wealth series match between England and Fiji at Twickenham Stadium on November 19, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Remembering, of course, that Eddie Jones prepared the Japanese Team for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, so he knows what he’s talking about. Putting his chargers through a somewhat grueling experience on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu ahead of that tourney, they certainly reaped the glory with their win at RWC2015 in Brighton. To overcome the might of South Africa’s Springboks at rugby’s showcase tournament is the story of legends and a movie under the title of, ‘Miracle in Brighton,’ is already underway.

Japan’s Brave Blossoms celebrate their 34-32 victory over South Africa at RWC2015. Photo courtesy of Getty

World Rugby Chairman, Bill Beaumont, has used the World Cup in Japan to promote rugby throughout Asia with a target of one million new participants. In December last year, Beaumont announced that this target has been achieved at a special event celebrating 50 years of Asia Rugby in Bangkok.

While the vast majority of those numbers have been in Japan, about 460,000. Many of which have been involved in one off tournaments such as the one I attended at the YC&AC grounds last September in Yokohama run by Australian Peter Gibson called the “Hero’s Cup” with former Japan captain Hitoshi Ono.

Meeting Hitoshi Ono at YC&AC in Yokohama, September 2018.
CJ with Japanese rugby legend Hitoshi Ono at an Aussie Beef rugby tournament at YC &AC

According to veteran rugby scribe in Japan and good friend, Rich Freeman, the inflated numbers for Japan are not telling the true story. As rugby numbers are actually on the decline.

In the present way it’s structured it just doesn’t work. Schools are losing rugby clubs big time,” Freeman says.

Rugby is struggling, especially at school level, so they’re going to have to change the way it’s structured.”

The main problem is that there are no consistent pathways, unless your child attends a rugby school and that is the only sport they are allowed to play 330-340 days a year. Those that don’t attend are going to feel left out after the World Cup with nowhere to play rugby.

You’re going to have all these young kids saying, ‘Wow, I watched Beauden Barrett play and he did this, I want to play,’ but unless there are more clubs like Koji’s (Tokumasu) Shibuya Rugby Club, where are they going to go?”

Koji Tokumasu runs the Shibuya Rugby Club which is one of only a few clubs introducing Tokyo kids to the sport through tag rugby. He is a senior director for #RWC2019 organising committee and says the JRFU needs to pick up it’s act.

Every Sunday we have over 300 under 12’s playing tag rugby and even if they don’t have the opportunity to play at school they can play at our club. I’m hoping and confident that will increase, so the Japan Rugby Union and schools should be prepared to open the door when this happens.”

The urgency for exposure is apparent with only six months before the Cup kicks off at Tokyo Stadium (Ajinomoto Stadium) on September 20th with Japan hosting Russia in Pool A. Many people I talked to in Japan last year were overawed by Japan’s success at the last World Cup in England four years earlier. Not just the win over South Africa, the match between Japan and Samoa achieved a television audience record of 25 million in Japan.

CJ at Ajinomoto Stadium last year.Courtesy of @brisbanerugby on Instagram

Before the Sun Sets on the Sunwolves

Last year in Tokyo the Sunwolves set ChiChiBu-no-Miya Stadium alight with their sublime 63-28 demolition of the lackluster Queensland Reds. In March, at the same stadium in Tokyo, in front of a boisterous crowd, a repeat was on the cards until the Reds scored to level at 31-all near the end and Hamish Stewart manged a penalty goal after full-time to get the Reds out of jail with their first win of the season 34-31.

The Sunwolves are hunting in a pack. Photo courtesy of Getty Sports

Two weeks ago they defeated the NSW Waratahs 31-29 in a Friday match at Newcastle Stadium. In March they had beaten the Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton, New Zealand, 30-15, for their first away win. Unfortunately, SANZAAR later decided, with the JFRU withdrawing their support, that the team will be cut from Super Rugby after the completion of the 2020 media contract. With the Top League overlapping the Super Rugby season next year, the Sunwolves won’t be as strong as they are displaying this year; more reason to attend.

CJ and Brad Thorn might have a side bet on the result.. Photo courtesy of @brisbanerugby on Instagram

Find the event at Brisbanerugby.com on Facebook and show your interest by giving me an indication of how many tickets you would like at a reduced price. Payment can be made up until the day before the event through the Commonwealth Bank, Australia account Brisbanerugby BSB: 064-128. Account Number: 10373547.

See you there

CJ

Helping out your Mates

Back in 2011, I was introduced to the guys from the Shekou Rugby Club in Shenzhen. On Wednesday nights, we would gather at the grounds of SIS near Seaworld in Shekou, Shenzhen, China and play touch rugby. It’s always a convivial motley crew of men and women from France, Australia, New Zealand, America, PNG, Italy, Japan, China, Hong Kong and elsewhere. It was here I ran into this friendly Australian, John Graham. Always having a laugh and telling us how he was doing a segment on a US Golf Show. A very genuine person that would never question helping you out. Often we would run into each other ‘downtown’ in Futian, Shenzhen having a few drinks and a laugh.

John Graham

At that time he was running a successful gym, Fusion, near the waterfront in Shekou that many of the rugby players attended. There was a lot of positivity in that gym and everyone said it was great. (I even had a training session there). Well that has turned out to be his Achilles heel as he was duped by a Chinese businessman who took over the business. I will let John take up the story below:

John’s campaign https://gogetfunding.com/being-wrongfully-sued-in-china/

If you can at all help John out, in anyway you can, please do.

Queensland Country Looking Good for Another NRC Premiership

On Sunday, fans braved the second half rain at Bond University to watch the National Rugby Championship semi-final between last year’s premiers Queensland Country and the Western Force. The star-studded Country outfit did not fail to impress from the getgo with tries aplenty in the first 20 minutes. None more so than 2018 Reds bolter, 18-year-old Jordan Petaia. Some very impressive running from the young Wallabies squad member playing at outside-centre with two tries in 15 minutes under the watchful eye of Reds coach Brad Thorn, who was standing beside me. From our vantage point, Caleb Timu also ran in for a five-pointer, on the blindside, with the Western Force down to 13 men.

Jordan Petaia Country
Young gun, 18-year-old, Jordan Petaia running strongly in the NRC semi-final. Photo courtesy of Getty

Hamish Stewart did not bring his kicking boots which proved costly in the first half as Qld Country went to the sheds up only 20-14, after Western Force kicker, Ian Prior, converted their first two tries. Stewart did make-up for his earlier failures with the boot in the second half with two conversions and two penalty goals, but leaving points out there was scrutinised by Reds coach Thorn.

CJ & Brad Thorn
CJ with Brad Thorn enjoying the early tries by Queensland Country at Bond University. Photo CJ on Instagram @brisbanerugbycom

In the 53rd minute, referee Damon Murphy called the match off due to the lightning in the area, but after about 15 minutes the play was back on. A few spectators left at this juncture, however, there were plenty that stayed, eager to watch more from the impressive Queensland Country outfit. The final score was 45-24 to the home side, booking them a place in next weeks final in Suva against Fiji Drua.

Queensland Country coach, Rod Seib, said, “I’m really pleased with the team’s performance today. The team delivered.”

Some real standout performances by Caleb Timu and Angus Scott-Young that should see them get a future call-up to the Wallabies.

Centre of attack

Tim Horan & Jeff Wilson
Tim Horan on the attack against the All Blacks’ Jeff Wilson

By Chris Rea

(First published on 15th October 1999)

 
The last Rugby World Cup of the century began with much fanfare at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff two weeks ago. The top seeds won their pool games quite easily through the second week provided some interesting results.

The first real match-ups of rugby heavyweights took place last weekend with New Zealand verse England and Australia v Ireland.

In the former game, England realised it had to play 15-man rugby to repeat their finals appearance of 1991, but the superiority of the All Blacks came to the fore in Jonah Lomu. As in the 1995 tournament, the 58th minute proved Lomu was back with a trademark 60 metre run through the English backs to break the 16-16 deadlock.

New Zealand scored a further try by in-form halfback replacement Byron Kelleher and took the match 30-16.

In the latter match, the passionate Irish couldn’t back up their rough play with any try-scoring opportunities and the Wallabies went away with two tries to win a scrappy contest 23-3.

Instrumental in the win was mid-field saviour Tim Horan. As he was in the successful 1991 campaign three-Cup veteran Horan is the centre of attack.

I caught up with Tim Horan before he and the team left Australia a few weeks ago on a typical early spring day in Brisbane.

In contrast to the light rain that fell at Lansdowne Road before Sunday’s match, blue sky with the sun shining brightly greeted me as I parked out the front of Tim’s Queenslander house. His daughter directed me to ‘the office’ where the interview was conducted.

It had been about 10 years since we played in the Colts (under 19) “Dream Team” that won the 1988 Grand Final convincingly and just like then he can still carve through backlines as he proved with vintage aplomb on Sunday against the Irish.

Webb Ellis TrophyThe Aussie campaign to “Bring back Bill”, the affectionate name they have given the William Webb Ellis trophy, is underway and November 6, just three weeks off, is looming as a very significant day for a young nation entering the new millennium.

For also on that day a referendum will be carried out in Australia to decide whether to become a republic or hold onto a dying monarchy. The players have already voted and Captain John Eales had one regret that they won’t be playing England on that day.

“It would have been good to play England in the final,” he said. “We could stuff them on the field – and stuff them in the vote.”

I asked Tim his opinion as to Australia winning the 1999 World Cup. He said, “We have a fairly good chance, but Ireland won’t be easy.”

“At the moment we are concentrating mainly on Wales in the quarters”.

He didn’t seem too concerned about Larkham’s injury noting that it was not as bad as the thumb injury he sustained in a Super 12 match where he had to go off at halftime.

His lack of concern proved justified as Larkham had a solid return to test match level rugby last Sunday and again yesterday against the Americans.

At the moment we are concentrating on Wales in the quarters’

Tim Horan

Australia’s chances of regaining the Webb Ellis trophy are looking pretty good. As Bob Dwyer stated in his 1992 autobiography that the best two prepared teams contested the final in 1991 and should that be the case this time the Wallabies (and the Kiwis) are starting to come good at the right time.

An emphatic win over the Kiwis at Stadium Australia, 34-9, in front of 107,000+ people was a psychological shot in the arm after some lacklustre games preceding it.

“The atmosphere was ecstatic…great for Australian rugby”, Tim said. “Crowd support like that is something we don’t often get in Australia.”

“In New Zealand and South Africa you come to expect to play 16 (including the crowd) but at Stadium Australia it was excellent.”

This game provided the springboard for Australia’s assault at retaining rugby’s Holy Grail, the Webb Ellis trophy.

In a year that has seen our cricketers, hockey and netball players win their respective world championships it would be another piece of silverware on the mantelpiece of a proud young nation.

Australia’s first match of the tournament was against Romania in Belfast. Once again Tim Horan proved too good for the weak defence and scored in less time then it takes to pour a pint of Guinness (119 seconds).

For his effort, sponsors Guinness will donate £10,000 to the charity of his choice (this probably should go to the under-financed Romanian rugby team).

The tournament run by the Five Nations has had its detractors noting the lop-sided results. But as Sydney Morning Herald writer Peter FitzSimons says, “Wouldn’t rugby league love the chance to show it had a similar array of cultures, backgrounds and socio-economic firepower united through a common passion?”

IMG_0268
CJ & Peter FitzSimons

When Australia hosts the next rugby World Cup in 2003 these same arguments will be brought out along with the problems of where each game will be held.

As rugby has become professional the bottom line has been to make as much return from the game as is put in and that means bums on seats.

At the present World Cup, we have seen good numbers at games in England, France and Wales but poor ones for matches in Scotland.

The Scottish Rugby Union is responsible for this balls-up due to their traditional opposition to any innovations or improvements of the game and their initial rejection of having a World Cup when first raised by the IRB.

I remember asking a Scottish friend about tickets for the World Cup early this year and he told me that even the clubs are finding it hard to obtain any – what a travesty that has proven

Fast forward to 2003 where the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) is calling the shots, will the spectators be looked after then?

Will Queensland, a strong backyard for Wallaby talent, be overlooked for the choice matches by Melbourne; or even Perth?

ARU head, John O’Neill has decided not to give Brisbane a Bledisloe Cup match next year opting for Melbourne where rugby is hardly played because they can guarantee numbers through the turnstiles.

However, when I asked Tim about the lack of major test matches in Brisbane he cited that only 34,000 people came to Suncorp Stadium for the Tri-nations match against South Africa in July.

With the present debates over a super-stadium in Brisbane in the professional age of rugby, Queensland may be left out on a limb.

The debacle when Queensland topped the Super 12 and was given a home semi-final over whether to play at Ballymore or Suncorp Stadium meant that those schoolboys who supported the Reds all season weren’t allowed to use their schoolboy passes.

Subsequently, many locals boycotted and a proportionally larger Kiwi contingent turned up to see Canterbury outplay an uninterested Queensland side.

A further point I raised with Tim was that of the end of season Rico Challenge played between Queensland, New South Wales and ACT.

He supported the concept saying it is a good way for fringe players to get a Super 12 contract.

Although spectators to these games are low if marketed properly and positioned better in the rugby calendar, as proposed, we may see this problem overcome.

Finally, I asked Tim of his plans after the World Cup.

“Well I have another year to go on my Super 12 contract, but after that, I’d like to play in Europe”, he said.

“The pressure of Super 12 and test matches are great and I’d like to relax for a while with my family”.

No chance of following in your father’s footsteps and entering politics?

“No way!!!” he replied.

“You could give me a million bucks for a day in politics and I’d say no.

“For all the hard work my father does he doesn’t seem to get any popular response”.

The interview ended at 3pm as Tim apologized that he had to pick up one of the kids from school.

This weekend the final pool matches of the World Cup will be wrapped up with Pool D looking the closest; the clash between France and Fiji to determine the winner of Pool C being unclear; and England against Tonga no certainty.

You could give me a million bucks for a day in politics and I’d say no.”

Tim Horan

New Zealand’s hundred plus points against Italy was very impressive while Australia’s line was crossed for the first time this tournament by the USA, but went on to win 55-19.

Finishing the top of pool E Australia is guaranteed a semi-final berth, however, they will be without star running loose forward Toutai Kefu banned for 14 days for his toe-to-toe with Ireland’s enforcer Trevor Brennan.

Australian coach Rod McQueen was upset about the “selective citations”, but acknowledges the tournament has been well run.

Whichever team holds aloft the Webb Ellis trophy on November 6 rugby will be the real winner.

クアード・クーパーはどこにも行かない

Quade_Cooper_2014
クアード・クーパー

その日、ウローウィンのシャウ通りには四千人を超える人々が集まった。クィーンズランドラグビーユニオンと豪ラグビーユニオンの双方から十分に報酬を得ながらもブリスベンのプレミアコンペティションの地元ラグビーパークに隠れていた魔術師を見るためだ。今冬季はチプシーウッドのレギュラーメンバーとして数えきれない人に真のエンターテイメントを提供してきている人物だ。筆者は彼のその実力をタダで(ビール代はかかるが)見ていることに罪悪感すら覚えるほどだ。

多くの人がトップレベルでプレーする彼を待っている。彼はレベルが高いところに行く程に良いプレーをすることはすでに先週の日曜に証明されているのだ。ブリスベン市の五つのトライのうち(一つは彼自身で)四つはクーパーのオフロードからだった。62分でのチームメイトのジェイデン・ガマヌには特に。ブリスベン市は47対29でティム・サムソン率いるウエスタンフォースに惜しくも負けてしまったが、レッズの選手であふれている彼らもコンビネーションを調節すれば勝利するだろう。

JP on the charge

今週にかけてクアード・クーパーの今後には多くの憶測があった。例えばティム・ホーランの話ではサンウォルブスがクーパーの獲得に前向きであり、さらには豪ラグビーユニオンがクィーンズランドラグビーユニオンとレベルズとクーパーのマネージャのコーダー・ナッサーとの間での話の詳細も公表した。

月曜の朝、ナッサーは私に言った。彼はニュージーランドから始まり、世界中のどこからのオファーも視野に入れていたと。さらにナッサーは豪ラグビーユニオンと財産灘のクィーンズランドラグビーユニオンが選手開発の費用捻出のために最低でも80万ドルオフを希望していたとも語ってくれた。しかしクアードは揺るがない。むしろ大観客を率いれて来シーズンもチプシーウッドで走り回ることに満足している。それは長い目で見れば決してお金の無駄遣いではない。

これからの数週間の間にクーパーがどんな決断をしたとしても彼は支えられるべきであり、この気まぐれな天才は彼のプレイする場所ならどこへでも観衆を連れてくるだろう、シャウ通りから札幌までにでも。

Translated from original article “Quade Cooper Isn’t Going Anywhere”, published September 7th, 2018, by Reina Delos Santos (Brisbanerugby staff translator)