One year before the Rugby World Cup Challenge of the representative of Japan “Our Team” | NHK | WEB article

One year from the Rugby World Cup, the challenge of the national team of Japan

“Our team”.
This is one of the themes raised by the players of the Japanese national team for the Rugby World Cup, which will begin in France on September 8.
“Each person has the awareness to pull the team. By doing so, the team becomes stronger.”That’s what I think.
A new spirit that was born as an upgraded version of ONE TEAM, which took the world by storm three years ago. Not only the players, but also the staff of the Japan Rugby Union who support them are fighting with the same thought.
(Tatsuki Kobayashi, Reporter, Sports Information Department)

Another “battle” disputed by the Association

New Zealand, England, France, Australia.
This is the team that Japan will face in test matches and other events until November.
(*World Ranking as of September 5)

[France (2e au monde)]
▽July 2 test match ●23-42
▽July 9 test match ●15-20

[Australie Un représentant]
▽October 1 warm-up match
▽October 8 warm-up match
▽October 14 warm-up match

[Nouvelle-Zélande (4e au monde)]
▽Test match on October 29

[Angleterre (5e au monde)]
▽November 12 test match

[France (2e au monde)]
▽November 20 test match

Japan qualified for the last eight for the first time at the 2019 World Cup, but currently sit 10th in the world rankings. Compared to world powers that have won the World Cup, their achievements are still far behind.
It’s amazing that Japan can play against such a strong team at such an important time when the World Cup is only a year away.

How did you come up with such a card? There was an elaborate strategy from the Japan Rugby Union.

The 2019 Japan Tournament was key

Japan 2019 World Cup Tournament.

During this tournament, which was said to be the most exciting in history, Kensuke Iwabuchi, general manager, in charge of negotiations at the association, fought a new “battle”. This is a discussion to visit the manager of the participating team during the stay and set up future games.

Matches against strong teams are considered the most important factor in strengthening the national team.
Indeed, if players know firsthand what the strengths of the world are, they will be able to confirm their challenges and gains, which will lead to finding a path to future growth.

The effect does not stop there.
Playing against a team full of star players like the New Zealand national team “All Blacks” will also give the opportunity to discover new fans.
Of course, to increase the association’s income through ticket sales. In order to prevent the excitement of 2019 from becoming temporary, and to make the Japanese national team even stronger and win more fans, general manager Iwabuchi secretly launched the next battle, ahead of the World Cup 2023.

General Manager Iwabuchi
“I thought the type of game we could organize would have an impact on the France 2023 tournament, so my main job during the World Cup was to make the tournament a success, but the other pillar was to make the tournament a success during It was about how many people I could meet and talk to.

success and anxiety

One day with New Zealand, the next day with England individually, another day with New Zealand, Australia and Argentina. While listening to the wishes of the other side, we also politely communicate the intentions of the Japanese side.
Additionally, he is said to have explored whether it was possible to make the game assuming various schedules in advance.
Among them, it was the negotiations with England that got a response.

General Manager Iwabuchi
“At that time we had a pretty good conversation with England, and we started talking about playing regular games. We have a schedule, and we have a plan to strengthen them.

However, it was not all easy.
Unlike England, it took a long time to realize the match against the New Zealand national team, the All Blacks, which will take place at the National Stadium in October this year.

The All Blacks are a powerhouse who have won the World Cup three times in the past.
Like the game against England, the match was almost decided three years ago, but we failed to agree an official contract.
Why did it take so long to announce it?

Managing director Iwabuchi revealed that the difficult negotiations are continuing, as well as the circumstances on the All Blacks side.

General Manager Iwabuchi
“The New Zealand (All Blacks) team weren’t doing well, and it was a bit hectic because of the leadership issue. A few days before the announcement, I waited with a sense of urgency, thinking, ‘You don’t suddenly say you won’t.’ By the end, I was already worried, so I called New Zealand.”

Reflecting the intentions of head coach Jamie Joseph, this season’s game was delivered with a strong team. It was a stubborn “fight” that had been going on behind the scenes for three years.
General manager Iwabuchi, who set the stage, spoke about his expectations for the Japan national team.

General Manager Iwabuchi
“If you try to get ahead of the top eight, you only have the top four, and that means you have to beat New Zealand, England and France, who will be playing against you this fall. If the athletes are excited , the public will be excited too.

New initiatives to increase fans

In order to increase the popularity of rugby, the association has also launched new initiatives. It’s fan acquisition through video distribution.

So far, the association has mainly taken photos of team practices and posted them on SNS, but from June this year, professional photography staff will be assigned to improve the quality. I started distributing my own content.
This is a project launched to connect with fans by conveying behind the scenes of the Japanese national team and challenging the world together.

「Go with the Brave」In the video, which is called , the players’ casual expressions are filmed in an area where only team officials can enter, and the pre-game tension is captured in the dressing room.

He also referred to the content of the Japan Football Association, which has already made similar efforts, and in fact held online meetings to learn shooting techniques and timing.

“Exclusive Photographer” is very active

Filming began from the Japanese national team’s training camp in June.
I was fumbling, but I got on the right track with the success of the “exclusive photographer”.

The photographer is Takuma Nakamura.
He is from the Doshisha University rugby club which produced many famous players such as Seiji Hirao. We are detached from a television channel familiar with rugby broadcasts and programs.

Mr Nakamura
“When I heard about this, it was so sudden that I was really surprised. I thought my boss would call me to his room and get mad at me, but he said, ‘I want you join the national team. someone I looked up to, so I was happy to be a part of it. However, when I heard that this was the first time the Rugby Union had taken such an initiative, I was a little worried whether I would be able to play such an important role.

Mr. Nakamura started shooting even though he was confused. What is particularly close to my heart is the feeling of distance with the players.

Even in situations where you want to get close to capture realistic footage, such as rigorous practices, tense meetings, and locker rooms before games, you have to be patient. I always look for the last minute distance where I can intervene to transmit my charm without spoiling the good atmosphere of the team.

On the other hand, when players are relaxed, they can get closer and closer. I try to capture expressions that can’t be seen in a game, like players’ birthday celebrations during training camps or players’ smiles during light training for recovery.

After trial-and-error filming and continuing the production, I got a good response from the start of the video.

Mr Nakamura
“When I went to Yuichiro Fujii, the national team manager, to watch the video, he said ‘perfect’, which made me happy.”

The number of subscribers to the channel has also increased, and it is said that the children of the rugby school are glued to it.
With the World Cup approaching in a year, Mr. Nakamura would like to further improve the content.

Mr Nakamura
“This project is about working with the fans in preparation for the World Cup.

In a year, players

Not to be outdone by the efforts of the staff, the players are also enthusiastic about the idea of ​​the World Cup.

At the representative candidates’ training camp that started on September 5 in Beppu City, Oita Prefecture, key members injured in the summer test match series returned.

Kazuki HIMENO, who is known for his “jackal” game of stealing the ball from the opponent, has returned after tearing his thigh muscle.

Kotaro Matsushima, who put his strong legs to good use at the last World Cup, has recovered from a shoulder injury and is showing agility in training.

After training camps in Oita and Miyazaki, the players will finally face matches against strong teams in October and November.
Will it be the first time in history to reach the top 4 at the World Cup a year later? The real battle starts here.

Himeno Player
“I feel more excitement for the World Cup than anxiety. During the last tournament, the word ‘jackal’ became popular, and at the same time I realized that my specialty is ‘jackal’. is one of my strengths that I improved on, so I want to win as many balls as possible next year.

“It’s very important to play against a strong opponent in a test match, and I don’t think there are many opportunities like this. I think it will be a culmination because I’ll be 30. I want to work hard as a team to achieve the goal of finishing in the top 4.”

Sports news reporter
Tatsuki Kobayashi
Registered in 2014
Current affiliation after working at Kobe Station and Osaka Station (sports)
Currently covers football and rugby

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