Rugby, Surf and Goromaru with Keith Davies

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rugby japan

Keith Davies


(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. As long as I can lie down flat at the end of the day, then that’s enough!”

This nomadic lifestyle seems to suit Keith at the moment, as he travels across Japan giving rugby coaching seminars, selling his new SPT system (Sports Performance Tracking), and catching waves wherever he goes.

We caught up with Keith in Shinjuku to get his unique insight into rugby in Japan. As a former coach of numerous corporate teams, including Honda and Mitsubishi, Keith knows more than most about the good and bad side of life here.

keith davies, rugby japan

“In the early days, when you were in company teams, you had to actually go and work in the office; players and coaches. So there’s a lot of corporate experience that you pick up. It’s a great opportunity for players…to develop new options in corporate work, to get connections and to set yourself up for that second career.”

This pragmatic approach to rugby in Japan seems necessary when considering some of the problems within the system here.

“You don’t have the back-up opportunities here (in Japan). There aren’t many opportunities that are coming up in broadcasting or media work…like we have in other countries. Also, you don’t have the marketing opportunities that you have in sport overseas because people just don’t go and watch the games.”

“Corporate rugby in Japan is a very fickle market. In Japan, success doesn’t pay! Success in Japanese rugby costs you a lot of money. The stronger you get, the more you have to spend on training camps, and getting better foreign players, and even internal travel around the country.”

Keith further explains how the JRFU needs to do more to address problems, ranging from player recruitment at the Sunwolves, to the inability to field university players in the Top League.

japan rugby

“Essentially, I think one of the reasons why Eddie (Jones) decided that after the World Cup, he wasn’t going to stay here any longer was the lack of proaction in his workplace. As someone who is obsessive in his planning it was a critical aspect of the job that he eventually ran out of patience with.”

It’s not all bad news for Japanese rugby though, as Keith is quick to point out.

“The one thing that has always drawn me back to Japan…is just the sheer enthusiasm of the players, and also the cultural respect the Japanese have for educators. You have to be honest, that it’s a great way to make a living!”

If you would like to listen to the full interview with Keith Davies, which includes talk about his time as a video analyst with the 2011 title-winning Queensland Reds, and helping Ayumu Goromaru settle into life in Australia, plus all the latest news from Japanese rugby, please use the following link:


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