Rugby in Japan   日本のラグビー

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Leading the way in Asia

Rugby is very popular in Japan and has been practiced there for a century. The country has the fourth largest number of rugby union players.

Rugby in Japan, 1874


A brief history of rugby in Japan

Rugby was invented in England in the late nineteenth century and was initially developed in the Anglo-Saxon countries (Great Britain, Scotland, Wales, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia). The sport arrived in Japan at the time of the Meiji Restoration in 1868, through Yokohama and Kobe. Initially only foreigners practiced this new sport, the first Japanese to enter the fray were the students of Keio University in Tokyo in 1899, with the help of professors Edward Bramwell Clarke (1875-1934) and Ginnosuke Tanaka (1873-1933). The two were friends and teachers, and became the first coaches in the history of rugby in Japan. Therefore, the Keio University club is the oldest rugby team in Japan.

Japan, the first Asian rugby nation

Rugby is an important sport in Japan. The Japanese rugby team, The Brave Blossoms, was founded in 1926 in Japan. Since 2016, their trainer is former New Zealand rugby player Jamie Joseph. Japan has participated in all the competitions of the Rugby World Cup since its inception in 1987, is considered the best Asian nation in the world of rugby, and ranks 11th worldwide. Since 2006, Japan has also participated in the Pacific Nations Cup with Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. In 2008, Japan participated for the first time in the Asian Five Nations Tournament and won.

See: Baseball in Japan

The Japanese team playing against Australia in The Rugby World Cup 2017

The female Japanese rugby team in 2013

Rugby for everyone

Did you know that women also play rugby in Japan? The first women's team, the Setagaya Ladies, was formed in 1983. The first women's rugby league in Japan dates back to 1988, and the first women's team played overseas the following year. The women's team Sakura XV have also participated in the World Cup since 1991. In 2017 the team ranked 14th in the World Rugby Ranking and are participating for the fourth time in the World Cup this year (they previously competed in 1991, 1992 and 2002).

See also: Tokyo Dome City

The Japanese team in action during the game against South Africa during the Rugby World Cup in 2015.

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