Rugby2019

Rugby: Japan "Ferraris" prove there is still place for small men in rugby

Rugby: Japan "Ferraris" prove there is still place for small men in rugby

Kenki Fukuoka's last game as a Brave Blossom highlighted the fact that there is still a place in rugby for players of all shapes and sizes. While Japan's 26-3 defeat to South Africa in the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals, ultimately came down to the Springboks' physicality, the fact that Japan were even in the knockout stages was down to some of the smaller players in the Japan team. If further proof was needed, Faf de Klerk's man-of-the-match performance and Cheslin Kolbe's form has shown that even South Africa's giants need help from the small men. "The brand of rugby we play is inspiring...and ideal for promoting the game," said Japan coach Jamie Joseph. That brand makes the most of the players who have been dubbed the "Ferraris" on Japan's wing and can only be played thanks to the input to another of the not-so-tall brigade. (Kenki Fukuoka of Japan evades a tackle.) Scrumhalf Yutaka Nagare was outstanding all tournament, his speed to the breakdown and speed of pass key to Japan going through their pool games unbeaten. "Not just South Africa, but all of the teams competing at the World Cup are bigger than us," Nagare said. "Though we are small, I think everybody played really well and it became a confidence-booster. But that is totally different from winning a quarterfinal. They know the pressure of playing in the quarterfinals and how to win the game. I think we were just missing some factors." (Yutaka Nagare (R) of Japan tackles South Africa's Faf de Klerk (9)) Much has been written of the electric breaks down the touchline that saw Fukuoka and Kotaro Matsushima pick up nine tries between them in the pool stages. But there is much more to their game. Both were immense Sunday in defense, taking every high kick and tackling every player that came their way. One defensive read from Matsushima in the first half saw him stop a try even though he initially had to cover four players. Fukuoka has one remaining goal for his country as the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympian aims for an Olympic encore before eventually hanging up his winged boots in order to attend medical school. ( Kotaro Matsushima (C) of Japan takes a pass from teammate Michael Leitch (6)) "The 2020 Olympics are next year, so I hope that that strength of the Japanese players can be built up on," he said. Although he will be missed, Fukuoka has left a legacy, showing rugby fans throughout the world that the sport still has a place for men with attributes other than brawn. "I think it would be wonderful if small players like us can give hope to others by playing physically," he said. Related coverage: Rugby: Japan bow out of World Cup with loss to South Africa Rugby: Japan fans proud of Brave Blossoms' historic World Cup run

Rugby: World Cup team profiles

Sep 11, 2019 | KYODO NEWS


Rugby: Japan fans proud of Brave Blossoms' historic World Cup run

Oct 21, 2019 | KYODO NEWS


Rugby: Japan bow out of World Cup with loss to South Africa

Oct 20, 2019 | KYODO NEWS


World unites behind Japan's q'final battle with South Africa

Oct 20, 2019 | KYODO NEWS


Rugby: Wales reach World Cup semis with win over 14-man France

Oct 20, 2019 | KYODO NEWS

Pick Up

Partners