Last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan saw the hosts become the first Asian team to qualify for the knock-out rounds. After an expected opening win against Russia they then produced the shock of Shizuoka as they stunned Ireland. Samoa were brushed aside and then it was the big decider against Scotland on a typhoon weekend when a few other games had already been cancelled. Japan ran riot to make it to the quarter finals with a blistering-paced 30 minute period as the tries rained down in Yokohama.
Both England and Wales were supposed to be coming to these shores for a couple of friendly games each this Summer but Covid-19 put paid to that idea. The Japanese RFU have managed to lure one of the home nations to Tokyo (plus one other Japanese city) each Summer for a number of years now and my first taste of it was back on 19th June 2005.
Ireland were the visitors who had already beaten the Brave Blossoms 44-12 in Osaka seven days earlier and I was there for my first rugby match in Japan on a cloudy but hot day having paid 1500 yen on the gate. The chances of just turning up on the day are sadly long gone ever since the “Brighton Miracle” at World Cup 2015 put the national rugby team on the map.
This was no normal Ireland team though as it was almost unrecognisable from the one that had finished third earlier that year in the Six Nations Championship. Brian O’Driscoll and ten others were on British Lions duty as was their Coach! Prince Chichibu Memorial Ground was the destination and there was a sense of optimism that Japan could hold their own against this makeshift Irish team for a bit. That was sadly unfounded within a few minutes of the start as Ireland raced over for two early tries to effectively end the match…or so I thought!
Japan managed to fight back and were only 14-10 down at the break. That optimistic expectation reared its ugly head again as the second half began but hopes were soon dashed as the Irish repeated what they’d done at the start of the first half. Overall they scored five second half tries and cruised to victory.
Final Score: Japan 18 – 45 Ireland
- Ireland returned to Japan in June 2017 for the first time since 2005 and romped to a 50-22 victory in Shizuoka before a 35-13 win in Tokyo a week later. With all those results, and Ireland’s 100% record against the Brave Blossoms, it was no surprise that they were heavy favourites to win their group match at Rugby World Cup 2019! However, the “Shock of Shizuoka” happened and my friend Mac captured the whole mood, spirit and action of the day perfectly in his YouTube video which you can see below.
For the match highlights (3:10 minutes) check out this video…
Bonus: Two months after the Ireland game in 2005 I went to another rugby match as Newcastle Falcons were touring from England with NEC Green Rockets as the opponents at Tokyo National Stadium on 20th August 2005. That stadium has long since been demolished as it was replaced by the National Stadium in anticipation of
this years next years (?) Olympics.
Having worked until 6pm, I made it to the stadium just in time. No sooner had I taken my seat in the stands, and the teams were out and lining up for a rendition of the rugby anthem ‘World in Union’ before kick off at 7pm.
The man that I and many others wanted to see was England’s World Cup hero Johnny Wilkinson but sadly he was absent through illness and was in a Tokyo hospital. Other Falcons players who were on show included Captain Colin Charvis of Wales and Australia’s Matthew Bourke among others.
Despite the absence of Wilkinson, it still proved to be a very one-sided match and the Japanese team failed to get a try. All I can remember was that there was one exciting moment where they were just metres from the Falcons try line. Despite the increased excitement, it sadly came to nothing.
Final Score: NEC Green Rockets 6-73 Newcastle Falcons
Click here to read ‘Rugby World Cup Fever Grips Japan For Six Memorable Weeks Of Action’
Click here to read ‘Japan & South Africa Meet For The First Time Since “That” Huge Shock In 2015’
Click here to read ‘日本 vs スコットランド (Japan vs Scotland)’
Click here to read ‘日本 vs サもア(Japan vs Samoa)’