Japan Sevens riding wave of success

(IRB.COM) Thursday 27 June 2013  
 Japan Sevens riding wave of success
All smiles: Japan captain Katsuyuki Sakai in training at the Luzhniki complex

It’s been a real month of achievement for Japanese rugby. Eddie Jones’ national side has performed heroics in recent test matches and their Sevens counterparts have arrived in Moscow determined to create a success story of their own.

In early June the Brave Blossoms beat Wales for the first time in 13 tests and the two-test series between the sides attracted huge interest from Japanese fans and sell-out crowds.

That historic victory in the second test has been followed more recently by wins against both Canada and the USA in the Pacific Nations Cup, leaving everyone involved in the game upbeat.

While Jones' team is building steadily towards the Rugby World Cup in England in 2015, Japanese rugby as a whole is blossoming in anticipation of hosting the 2019 edition of the tournament. Competing in the Sevens World Cup is another big opportunity to showcase the sport.

“Rugby is drawing huge attention at the moment thanks to the success of our 15-a-side team. We now want to keep that feeling going in Moscow,” said men’s Sevens coach, Tomohiro Segawa, whose side plays South Africa, Scotland and Russia in pool play.

Captain Katsuyuki Sakai echoed the opinion: "We have been given real momentum by the 15s. Now it's our turn and hopefully we can also help inspire rugby’s growth and boost in popularity all over Japan."

Three of Segawa’s 12-man squad – aerial specialist Yusaku Kiwazuru, powerful runner Lepuha Latuila and scrum-half Shuetsu Narita - played at the last World Cup in Dubai in 2005.

Three others - Kazushi Hano, Shota Emi and Seiyu Kohara - have graduated from the Junior World Rugby trophy.