Sunwolves Dream Team

rugby news japan

By Lee Watkins Despite the Sunwolves losing all of their matches this season due to player injuries, withdrawals, and mistakes on the pitch, there has also been enough promise in their performances to warrant some optimism. We sat down with the Kyodo news journalist, Rich Freeman, and came up with our Top 15 Sunwolves’ players based on the 56 men they have at their disposal. 15. (Fullback) Shota Emi or Kotaro Matsushima Lee: “Judging on performances this season and judging on the … [Read more...]

Ask Rich


By Lee Watkins In our first episode of “Ask Rich” we talk to the Kyodo News journalist, Rich Freeman, about salaries, international eligibility and other peculiarities surrounding rugby in Japan. If you want to listen to the full “Ask Rich” episode, please listen to the JRugby Podcast on SoundCloud or i-Tunes. Q:  If a Japanese player plays all the games in the Top League, Super Rugby and international matches, how many weeks per year would the player get off? Rich: Probably about a … [Read more...]

Panasonic Wild Knights with Taqele Naiyaravoro

japan rugby

By Lee Watkins After switching from rugby league to rugby union in 2014, the Fijian, Taqele Naiyaravoro’s career has been swift; playing for Glasgow Warriors and entertaining the idea of representing Scotland, before rejoining the Waratahs, and choosing to play for Australia instead. Since then he has scored his first try for the Wallabies against England, put in a man of the match performance for the Barbarians against South Africa, and has even been likened to the late Jonah Lomu due to his … [Read more...]

Kubota Spears with Alando Soakai

rugby japan

  Kubota Spears win against the Ricoh Rams last weekend, 21-18, signalled a growing optimism around the Funabashi-based club and helped maintain a little distance between them and the relegation zone. After suffering from relegation in 2011, the current set of players and coaches are hoping to improve on their mid-table position and start climbing up the table. We spoke with the former Highlanders player and current Kubota Spears Forwards Coach, Alando Soakai, about his team’s … [Read more...]

Toughening up Suntory and Japan with John Pryor

fighting guntai - 2 weeks intensive fight training

by Lee Watkins Arriving in Japan after an intense 4-day course coaching the Brisbane Broncos, the strength and conditioning coach, John Pryor, was shocked to discover the physical disparity between the Australians he had just left behind and the Japanese players, which now stood in front of him. “I’ll never forget my first day with Suntory. All the guys took their shirts off to go for a swim and my eyes popped out of my head! I couldn’t believe how scrawny and lacking in muscles they … [Read more...]

Cornish Pasties and the Waseda Whistle with Rich Freeman

YC&AC, rich freeman, eddie jones

  (The following is a summarised excerpt from the JRugby Podcast, Ep.5) By Lee Watkins “I just remember when Michael Leitch turned that penalty down, I was pulling my hair out, thinking, ‘Oh my God! You’ve just turned down the chance to draw with South Africa’. And then slowly you started thinking, ‘Hold on, this is possible...if they go left, this is on.’ When it happened - mayhem! There were guys in the press box next to me absolutely balling their eyes out,” says Rich … [Read more...]

Rugby, Surf and Goromaru with Keith Davies

rugby japan

  (The following is a summarised excerpt from the JRugby Podcast, Ep.4) By Lee Watkins and Taito Sakurai With over 30 years experience coaching corporate and university rugby in Japan, along with success at the Queensland Reds, and his involvement in the Heineken Cup, it may come as a surprise that Keith Davies is currently living out of a camper van somewhere in Kanagawa, Japan. “I’m living out the back of a Hi-Ace van at the moment. It’s got my surfboard, it’s got everything. … [Read more...]

Playing the Japan Way, London style.


Written by Satoshi Takehana Photos courtesy Stanley Dellimore Like all rugby teams the London Japanese team brings together players from all walks of life. The youngest is a 20-year-old university student while the oldest is well into his 50s and their backgrounds are just as diverse. Japanese corporate expats, students and those who left Japan and ended up in London for whatever reason play alongside a number of locals and players from all corners of the globe, coming together for the … [Read more...]

Super Rugby Launches in Japan


   On a beautifully crisp, cool, and sunny afternoon on February 27th, I, along with several friends and family had the pleasure of watching the Sunwolves play in their first home game in Tokyo. The Sunwolves are Japan’s first ever Super Rugby team and this is their inaugural  season.  And, while the cards are typically stacked against new franchise teams, the elements all conspired to make the day a memorable one for both fans and players. Playing against the highly ranked Lions … [Read more...]

Japan are the “Darlings” of World Rugby‏

Japan celebrates win over South Africa

Prior to what proved to be Japan’s final game at the Rugby World Cup, RNJ was asked to write a piece for Rugby Magazine.  The latest edition goes on sale today in Japan and this piece is included in Japanese. Here is the original English version that the magazine have kindly allowed us to print. Prior to leaving Japan for England and the Rugby World Cup, Brave Blossoms coach Eddie Jones said his team had two goals.   “We want to make the quarterfinals and we want to be remembered as the team … [Read more...]