Pacific Island Rugby, Rugby, Rugby History, Rugby World Cup, Travel, Uncategorized

Where did the Islanders go?

Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa have historically been known for their brute like physicality and their dazzling skills. Players from the Pacific Islands have become high valued commodities in some of the most renowned rugby clubs in the world. This might be the reason that these nations are struggling to pull things together though. On 7 September 2019 the All Blacks demolished Tonga 92-7, which left the rugby world frustrated. Tonga which has such a wealth of talent just haven’t been able to pull it together. However, you look at it though should we sit here and blame Tonga or should we look at the current world rugby season set up and structure which has given Tonga very little time to prepare for their Rugby World Cup campaign.

This documentary gives a small insight into the reasons that Pacific Island Rugby struggles with players being all over the world.
Video published by Pacific Rugby Players Welfare on YouTube

World Rugby Season?

What is a global rugby season? This is the idea that all teams in the world will play on the same schedule, which will allow all teams the same amount of preparation time. This does not happen however due to a split between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, who play on different schedules. All Blacks stalwart coach Steven Hansen said in the Tonga vs NZL post match press conference, “The problem that we’ve got is a calendar that doesn’t allow you to do that,” referring to the situation. Hansen offered a solution to the problem saying, “We have these wonderful ideas about growing the game but we don’t have an organisation at the top that wants to be strong enough to say ‘righto – this is what we’re doing, we’re going to have a global season.” Is it now time for World Rugby to reshuffle the playing cards and introduce a global system?

This video is a discussion about what needs to happen for rugby to develop better throughout the world.
Video publish by The 1014 Rugby on YouTube

What good will a global season do?

This global rugby season Hansen is referring to would give these Pacific Island teams more time to prepare. The results of this would lead to more competitive test match rugby and also allow for more growth outside of the top tier. Hansen puts the problem the Pacific Island nations face in perspective saying, “It’s really difficult [for me] when your players play for five different franchises in New Zealand“, Hansen then went on to say, “So I can only imagine how difficult it would be when your players are playing all over the world and you’re bringing them back and you don’t have much time to prepare them.” Hansen is referring to the fact that most of the best Pacific Island players play in Europe due to the fact that there is more money in the game over there. Due to this factor, a priority is often given to the clubs, and players neglect their nations or are withheld from certain international competitions.

Video showing top 10 Pacific Island players
Video published on YouTube by George Vaka’uta

With all the talent that exists in the Pacific Islands hopefully soon in the near future there will be systems put in place that will allow for these great and fierce rugby nations to rise and really be counted on the big stage of world rugby. From an outsider looking in it looks to me as though the organisations need to get it right in terms of trying to put structures in place. Systems that give nations more power to dictate to clubs about whether players can play for their nations or not. It would be great to see these great nations playing more on the world stage and seeing what they can do at this year’s RWC.

North vs South, North vs South, Rugby, Rugby History, Rugby World Cup, Uncategorized

South vs North

The only Northern Hemisphere team to have ever lifted a Rugby World Cup (RWC) was England in 2003. On the other side of the spectrum the Southern Hemisphere sides have dominated at the RWC for the past three decades with Australia winning two (1991 & 1999), South Africa winning two (1995 & 2007), and New Zealand winning three (1987, 2011 & 2015). Can this current trend be broken at this years World Cup or will the Southern Hemisphere again rein supreme over the North. In this post I am going to give opinion on which teams are looking most likely to dominate at the RWC this year.

Graphic showing the Southern Hemisphere Dominance in the Rugby World Cup
Created by Joshua Parsons

King in the South

Due to the way that rugby is approached in the Southern Hemisphere where the youth grow up in a very rugby orientated culture. In the South kids are born with a rugby ball in their hands and to reinforce that a lot of emphasis is put on rugby at schools. The school rugby scene is very big with high-school and university games being broadcast on national television. A big emphasis is put on the sport from a young age. Naturally this creates a situation where, the youth coming through the system have a great understanding of the game.

Video documenting the Southern Hemisphere rugby dominance at RWC 2015
Video published by World Rugby on Youtube

Due to the climate in the South the game that is played is very different to way it is played in the North. This is mainly due to the climate as in the South rugby is played in summer and winters are usually dry, which means less kicking and more running rugby. On the other hand in the North there is more emphasis on goal kicking from penalties and this comes down to the wet climate, which makes it harder to play a running style of rugby. This means that players in the North and players in the South for the most part are playing two different brands or types of rugby. The South being quite fast and the North being quite slow and more orientated around strength rather than skill. With this being said Northern Hemisphere teams have started to play a more attractive styled running rugby in recent years and this has led to some close encounters between teams hailing from the two hemispheres.

A video showcasing the subtle difference between Northern and Southern Hemisphere rugby.
Video published by Rugby Zone on YouTube

Are the tables turning?

Recent years have seen Northern Hemisphere teams go from strength to strength. This can be seen in the recent change at the top of world rugby rankings, where Wales have gone number one replacing New Zealand who slipped up their final Rugby Championship games against Australia. To go a long with this the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand in 2017 showed promise for the North and they drew the series with the All Blacks. At the helm of the North’s resurgence are Southern Hemisphere coach’s. Warren Gatland from New Zealand is head coach of both Wales and The British and Irish Lions which are the two teams that have played a major role in putting the North back on the radar. Joe Schmidt another New Zealander has also played a major role as head coach of Ireland who have beaten New Zealand twice in the past three years. Eddie Jones of Australia is also showing promise as the Head coach of the English national side who narrowly lost to New Zealand at the end of 2018.

Video discussing the resurgence of Northern Hemisphere rugby
Video published by BT Sport on YouTube

If there was a time for things to change it would be this year as we see how the North has put itself back on the rugby map. As it stands three out of the four teams, which the numbers are favoring to win the Web Ellis trophy hail from the Northern Hemisphere. These teams are Ireland, England and Wales, along with the only team from the Southern Hemisphere being New Zealand. Therefore, this could be the year that we finally see the tables turn once and for all in favor of Northern Hemisphere sides. At the end of the day only time will tell if the Northern Hemisphere have bridged the gap.

Rugby, Rugby History, Rugby World Cup

How to win the Rugby World Cup?

As Rugby World Cup (RWC) 2019 closes in its time to explore what it is going to take to win the hallowed Web Ellis trophy. In this post I am going to look what various bits of data can tell us and see what the experts have to say about the topic. I will unpack the build up and the conditioning, as well as the mindset of a RWC winning team. Finally, which teams embrace these characteristics as a RWC winning team. Lets find out…

1999 Wallbies RWC winning captain John Eales gives his take on what it takes to win a RWC
Video published by World Rugby on YouTube

Preparation

As the famous quote by Benjamin Franklin goes, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Most of the teams will have been preparing for the world cup since the end of the last world cup. There would have been a lot of introspection and looking at where they went wrong and how they can best improve themselves so that they can be at the top of their game come kick off in Japan. Some teams would have had more time to prepare than others and some will just be happy to have qualified for the tournament. However, every team that is there will have had to have put in some sort of work to realize their goals at this years RWC. Famous rugby coach Eddie Jones wrote this of his preparations with the England side in an article for the Japanese Times, “A well-prepared team can beat a team that’s better physically and athletically. We did that with Japan against South Africa in 2015. If you’re better-prepared tactically, you can beat other teams. When it comes to the World Cup, you have to maximize your resources and that means maximizing your preparation.”

A video highlighting England’s preparations for the RWC.
Video published by England Rugby on YouTube

Experience is key.

In terms of winning a RWC every team that has won a world cup has had one thing in common and that was that they all had a wealth of experience. Previous winners in the professional era of the game have never had lower than 633 total caps in their team. The lowest average number of caps in a team was the Australian winning side of 1999, which averaged 42,20 caps. The highest average number of caps in a World Cup winning side was the New Zealand side that won in 2015 who had an average of 66,40 caps. This is a key thing to highlight as the more familiar players are with the team and the high pressure that test rugby brings the more successful they are likely to be.

Figure showing average number of caps for every RWC winning team since 1999.
Created by Joshua Parsons

What do the stats say?

Any team that has ever won the RWC has won all of their games at the tournament and so if you want win the tournament you should start by aiming for that 100% win record at the tournament. The world rankings mean very little going into a RWC, which will give hope to some of the lower ranked teams, however the only team to have won a RWC and not been ranked number 1 before the start of the tournament was South Africa. Team form between world cups is not a great indicator, which is similar to world rankings. A thing to note from the statistics was that teams that generally did well at the tournament started peaking just before the tournament. Teams that have won the RWC generally have had ad least 5 world class players. This stat tells us that a coach can build a team around 5 players. These players would be in key positions such as hooker, lock, 8th man, and the halfbacks.

THE 1014 RUGBY team analyse the numbers behind winning the RWC
Video published by Spark Sport on YouTube

With all this being said I think that this years RWC is going to be one of the most exciting world cups in world rugby history. This is due to the way that most of the international teams have been playing over the past two years. Most games between top teams are very close and tough to call, which makes it more exciting and thrilling to watch. I think that this world cup will have us on the edge of our seats and there maybe a few upsets on the cards. Ultimately it comes down to more than just numbers, stats and preparation. The key thing is that you have an unbreakable team that is able to stand up and play when it is most important. You need players that have that determination to fight for each other and get over the line. As they say rugby can be a funny game sometimes. At the moment if I were to pick a favorite it would definitely be Wales due to their recent form and the fact that they have managed to beat South Africa consistently over the last 4 year cycle.

Attending live games, Japan, Passions, Rugby, Rugby History, Rugby World Cup, The History of Japanese Rugby, Top League, Travel, TRAVELLING JAPAN, University Rugby

Rugby in Japan?

The rugby world knows little about Japanese rugby and how popular the sport is in the land of the rising sun. When you think about rugby, Japan doesn’t necessarily come to mind. However, contrary to this bias, the host nation of this year’s 2019 Rugby World Cup (RWC) has a rich rugby history. This years RWC is being played in Asia for the first time, which is very exciting for world rugby. In this post I explore the origins of rugby in Japan as well as the rugby structures present in the country.

Host Country/ContinentYear
New Zealand & Australia1987
Europe1991
South Africa1995
Wales 1999
Australia 2003
France 2007
New Zealand 2011
England 2015
Japan2019
France 2023

Figure 1: showing host nations and years of rugby world cups.

Created by Joshua Parsons.

The history of rugby in Japan

Rugby was first played in Japan in 1866, when the first Rugby Club in Japan was founded called the Yokohama Foot Ball Club. Rugby was played in Japan before big rugby playing nations such as France, New Zealand and South Africa. The only other places with a longer history are Australia and The British Isles. The Yokohama Foot Ball Club was the first ever Asian rugby club. The establishment of Yokohama Foot Ball Club came about due to over a thousand British troops who were stationed in the area. Many had played Rugby at school in England. The large number of troops made it easy to play as back in those days 40 players were needed to play a game. This was the foundation of rugby in Japan and is also the untold history of how the game started in the land of the rising son.

Scene of a rugby game in Japan.
Source: Harper’s 1874, Illustrator unknown

The father of Japanese rugby

The Japanese began playing rugby at Keio University in 1899. Ginnosuke Tanaka and Edward Bramwell Clarke introduced the great game to the men of classes they taught at the University. The University played their first official game in 1901 against expatriates of the Yokohama County Athletics  team. The team established fixtures against other clubs and soon the sport grew in Universities. This lead to the first inter-university game being played between Doshisha and Waseda Universities in 1923. The early 1920’s saw rugby grow rapidly in Japan, having over 60 000 players and 1 500 clubs. Tanaka is now remembered as ‘the father of Japanese rugby’. The birth of rugby in the land of the rising son led to the first ever Japanese tour in 1930. The national team traveled to Canada and had great success winning 6 games and losing 1. The ‘Brave Blossoms’ have participated in every RWC since its inception in 1987.

A picture of Ginnosuke Tanaka
Source: Wikimedia Commons

How popular is rugby in Japan today?

Japan is the fourth biggest rugby playing nation in the world with a population of 122 872 rugby players as well as having 3 631 official clubs. The national side nicknamed The Cherry Blossoms or The Brave Blossoms are ranked 11th in world rugby. Although rugby is only the 5th most popular sport in Japan they have a competitive domestic league called Top League. Top League draws players from many strong rugby nations. There are well known players such as Daniel Carter and Matt Giteau who have had stints playing in Japan.

Vlog by The Imbiber published on YouTube

University rugby in Japan

Rugby is popular at Universities around Japan, which participate in The All-Japan University Rugby Football Championship. The championship kicked off in 1964 and currently there are currently 16 universities competing. The most successful University in the competition is Waseda University who have won 15 Championships. The final is usually well attended having close 40 000 spectators as of 2005. The University rugby culture in Japan is very competitive. University teams often play against professional teams, however there is a gulf in class between the two levels.

Video published by World Rugby on YouTube

Why will the RWC be special?

Japan is an exciting new frontier for world rugby fans as all the world cups to date have been hosted by top tier nations of rugby. This new frontier could open a new dimension and will help grow the game in Asia. The expansion of rugby into this new realm, which most orthodox rugby supporters know very little about is one of general excitement. A ticket to Japan will be a prized possession come 20 September 2019.

Attending live games, Rugby, Rugby World Cup, Travel

6 tips for a good day at the game

I have been to many rugby games and I have learnt the hard way about things to do and things not to do on game day. I am writing this post to help you have the most enjoyable day possible at the game. Big events like world cups are usually very efficient and well organised, but it is still good to be prepared for any eventuality that may occur. Watching test match and professional rugby is something special and something that I hold very dear to my heart. So the first rule must definitely be fun. Here are the 6 tips I have for a good day at the game.

Cape Town Stadium panorama
Photo by warrenski

1. Get there early

Most big games draw crowds that are upwards of 60 000 people, which can mean large queues. If you want to stand in a queue for 30 minutes and rush to get to your seat without any food or beverages be my guest. For me however that is not enjoyable. When you get to the stadium early you get to meet your fellow supporters, and take in the atmosphere that attending a professional or international test match brings. There are often match build ups that begin ad least an hour in advance that get you in the mood for the game. This will also give you time to locate the nearest bar and toilet.

Avoid long queues
Photo by Levi Jones on Unsplash

2. Get the best tickets possible

Your enjoyment can also come down to where you are sitting in the stadium, although you can enjoy the game from anywhere in the stadium there are certain seats that are better for viewing the game than others. My perfect seat would be midway up and as close to the halfway line as possible. This seat will give you the best view of the action as possible. If the game is going on during the day you may also want to figure out where the shade will be and try and get a seat in the shade. Sitting in the sun can really drain your energy.

An old ticket from 1969, Wellington, New Zealand
Photograph by Phillip Capper

3. Organize transport for before and after

Going to rugby games sometimes involve drinking beer and having a good time with your friends and fellow fans. Having to worry about driving yourself to and from the stadium can limit your enjoyment of the game. This is why if you are able to afford it you may want to Uber or take a taxi to and from the stadium. Depending on where the game is you may be able to get public transport. Another more affordable option is to get a large group of people together and split a bus or mini bus. They don’t have to be people you know and you can easily find people with today’s social media. Having a large group is probably the most affordable option. Create a check point and a time that you want to meat before and after. Using this method will mean you don’t have to worry about drinking and driving and you don’t have to worry about finding parking.

A limousine
Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay 

4. Dress appropriately

I know this is probably an obvious one, but you need to wear the right clothes for the conditions. Check the weather for the time of the game and see if it is going to change and get colder or warmer. If it is going to get colder during the day you should definitely bring something warm. Make sure that it is easy to carry and maybe put it in a back pack as carrying a large jacket or jumper around could quite possibly limit you and ruin your day. Jeans are always a good option especially if you are going to be wearing a supporters jersey. The bottom line is if you are too hot or too cold, your experience of the day will be ruined as you won’t be able to enjoy yourself.

6 BIGGEST Style Mistakes Sports Fans Make!
Video published by alpha m.

5. Go with a friend

Going to a big game alone can be intimidating, having a mate with you will most definitely enhance your experience. Shared experiences help you grow closer to people so maybe this is your chance to take your boyfriend or girlfriend as a nice gift. Maybe you want want to reconnect with a relative or friend. A ticket or day at the game can be the perfect birthday gift and a memory that someone will cherish for the rest of their life. However on the off chance that you aren’t able to go with a friend, be sure to make friends with the people sitting around you. A good way to ensure that you always have someone to watch the game with is by joining the supporters club of the team you support. I went to the RWC 2015 semi-final on my own and made friends with the guy sitting next to me and we ended up having a jolly old time. Make the best of your situation.

A picture from the Fifa World Cup 2010
Photograph by Celso FLORES 

6. Don’t take your eyes off the game

In rugby the game can move so quickly and if you blink you may miss some amazing skill or a great line break or try. In order to not be left in the dark make sure that you don’t take your eyes off the game. A good tool to have whilst at a game is a pair of binoculars. This means that you can follow the game more closely especially if you are up on the top row of the stadium. A good tip to not take your eyes off the game is to get there early and make sure you use the toilet well in advance. If you want to drink and eat during the game then also make sure that you maybe buy two beers per half so that if one finishes ad least you don’t have to miss any of the action by getting up to get more beer. This will mean you don’t get left out and you can enjoy every moment of the amazing game we call rugby.

Best moments of the Rugby World Cup 2015 in England
Video published by RugbyVidsOfficial

Have fun and enjoy

Follow these simple steps and plan out your day the day before in order to maximize your enjoyment. Once you have an easy to follow plan and follow this simple formula your enjoyment will sky rocket. The key to the success of a day is planning exactly what you want to do. One last tip is to go to a game with no expectations and no preconceived idea of what the day is going to be like. Usually your expectations are let down, so rather go there with an open mind and take in each moment. This will most definitely see you have a greater level of enjoyment. I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Attending live games, Rugby, Rugby World Cup, TRAVELLING JAPAN

Must Watch Pool Games

Rugby World Cup 2019 (RWC 2019) kicks off on Friday 20 September in Tokyo. This is a tournament that only comes around every 4 years and never disappoints. The pool stages have a few treats lined up for the fans with some epic encounters that will be sure to have you on the edge of your seat. If you are travelling to Japan, and wondering what games you need to go and watch, don’t worry as I’ve got you covered. This post looks at the Rugby World Cup games that cannot be missed.

@rugbyworldcup Twitter feed

France vs Argentina, 21 September

Figure showing win percentages for Argentina vs France
Created by Joshua Parsons

This game sees 8th ranked France take on 10th ranked side Argentina on 21 September. This is a must win game in pool C “the pool of death”. With England expected to take the top position in the pool, it looks like these two sides are fighting it out for second spot in the pool. This makes for an exciting must win game for both sides. The two sides have previously met 51 times with France winning 36 and Argentina wining 14, with just one draw. Their most recent encounter in November 2018 saw Les Bleus taking the spoils on the day 28-13. This is not a match you want to miss. These two sides need the maximum points to kick start their tournament in the first game. 

Corleto on his way to the try. France – Argentina. Rugby world cup 2007 at the Stade de France in Paris
Photograph by  Fabien Dany – www.fabiendany.com / www.datka.kg

The Pool of Death Explained

The pool of death is a pool that contains 3 or more top tier nations, which means that these teams can contend for the top position in the pool. At every rugby world cup there has to be one of these pools due to the number of top quality teams in the rugby world cup. This year pool C can be labelled the pool of death due to the fact that England, France and Argentina are all in this pool. The pool also contains two wild card teams being the USA and Tonga who both have the ability to cause an upset against the three bigger rugby nations. This makes this Pool and extremely difficult one to call and this will also mean that one big rugby nation will miss out on a rugby world cup quarter final. This will definitely be a big talking point. For us fans though this is going to give us a great deal of entertainment.

This video explains pool C the pool of death
Video by TheScottishcannon – #1 Rugby & Gaming Channel


New Zealand vs South Africa, 21 September

Figure showing win percentages for New Zealand vs South Africa
Created by Joshua Parsons

This pool B encounter looks to be mouth watering. A meeting between the number one ranked side and the fifth placed side in the world. The last time these two teams met in a RWC New Zealand edged South Africa 20-18 at Twickenham in the 2015 RWC semi-final. 2018 saw South Africa beat New Zealand in Wellington by 1 point and New Zealand returned the favor by beating South Africa at Loftus by 2 points. The rivalry dates back to 1921 and the sides have faced each other 97 times since then. New Zealand have won 58 times and South Africa just 36 with 3 matches ending in a draw. This encounter will be one for the history books and will surely be the pool B decider.

ESPN Classic looking at arguably the greatest rugby duel, the All Blacks v Springboks
Video by official777

Ireland vs Scotland, 22 September

Figure showing win percentages for Ireland vs Scotland
Created by Joshua Parsons

This clash looks like it could decide who tops pool A. Ireland who are ranked 3rd in the world will be favorites going into the clash. However Scotland have shown some great fighting spirit leading up to the world cup and won’t let their 7th place world ranking mean anything. There is a lot of history between these arch rivals having played each other 135 times. Ireland having won 63 and Scotland having won 67 of these games. Looking at the recent form of these two teams this looks to be a game you don’t want to miss.

Scotland vs Ireland scrum at Edinburgh during the 2007 Six Nations Championship
Photograph by Conor Lawless https://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=420003710&size=l

Argentina vs England, 5 October

Figure showing win percentages for Argentina vs England
Created by Joshua Parsons

This pool C clash in the pool of death looks to be one for the record books and is a must win game for both sides if they are to progress to the next stage of the tournament. England who are real contenders to take the world cup will take on an Argentinian side that always seems to peak during a RWC year. History indicates that England should have the upper hand winning 18 of the 23 games played between the two sides. Either way this game should be full of physicality and running rugby, looking at the way both sides have looked to play in recent years.

England v Argentina 2006
Photograph by Patrick K

England vs France, 12 October

Figure showing win percentages for France vs England
Created by Joshua Parsons

This pool of death encounter may decide who tops pool C. there will be no love lost when these two power houses of world rugby clash horns on Saturday 12 October. Looking at recent form England look favorites to take this one, however one should never write off France especially in a world cup year. In the 105 games these two teams have played against each other England have taken 58 and France have taken 40, with 7 games ending in a stale mate. The last time these two sides played England walked away 44-8 victors. This game is a must win game for both sides if either one of them want to go to the play offs.

 Rugby World Cup 2015 Warm-up France-England, Stade de France
Photograph by Eponimm