Mon 19 Apr 2021 | 02:34

Japanese invasion: The new trend

Japanese invasion: The new trend
Mon 19 Apr 2021 | 02:34
Japanese invasion: The new trend
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SPOTLIGHT: Japan has fast become the epicentre of world rugby.

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The world’s premier players and coaches are flocking to Japan, helping the Top League reach incredible standards.

The Top League 2021 season features several Springboks (Jessie Kriel, Franco Mostert, Albertus Smith and Malcolm Marx, just to name a few), Wallaby stars and a growing list of All Blacks, including Beauden Barrett.

Johan Ackermann, Steve Hansen and Robbie Deans are some of the coaches currently plying their trade in Japan.

While many big-name players continue to flock to Japan for various reasons, it seems like Japanese talent are becoming just as popular in Super Rugby and the French Top 14.

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In January, the Bulls introduced Hitoshi Ipponsugi as their Head of Athletic Performance.

At the same time, Japanese stars Kazuko Himeno and Kotaro Matsushima have been impressive for the Highlanders in Super Rugby Aotearoa and Clermont Auvergne in Europe, respectively.

Himeno has gone from strength to strength in his four Highlanders appearances this season.

Scoring his first Super Rugby Aotearoa try, the 26-year-old was one of the side’s best in their 35-29 victory over the Blues this past Saturday.

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Matsushima proved just as valuable to Clermont Auvergne, as he helped them to a Champions Cup quarterfinal.

Speaking to reporters, Japan hooker Atsushi Sakate said he is hopeful that this new trend will continue to develop – with players heading to the Super Rugby, Top14 and even the English Premiership.

“I believe there will be more Japanese players challenging in the European Leagues, ” Sakate said.

“Matsushima and Himeno opened the pathway for other players and there certainly will be more to follow.

“The way we are progressing and the way they [ Matsushima and Himeno] perform in those international leagues means the numbers will definitely grow.

“But in the meantime, there will be a lot of talent being unearthed here in the Top league,”

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Sakate has been named in the Japan training squad for their upcoming match against the British & Irish Lions.

The Brave Blossoms are then scheduled to fly to Scotland on June 16, to take on the British & Irish Lions at Murrayfield in Edinburgh on June 26.

@leezil07
@rugby365com

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