Rugby joy amid pain

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it WAS with heavy hearts that the Japanese schools rugby team decided to go ahead with their trip to Scotland.

The devastating events at home made Sunday’s international against Scotland at Braidholm seem trivial in comparison.

But for coach Hideyuki Matsui, the 25-strong squad and the coaching staff had no option but to stay focused and claim victory for Japan.

Speaking through an interpreter, Mr Matsui told The Extra: “It is impossible to forget about the earthquake and tsunami. Our team played with the people of Japan in their hearts.

“We hope that we are able to provide just a bit of good news”.

Japan’s technical director Kyuji Nakatake shared his memories of the earthquake.

He said: “We could feel the aftershocks at our camp in Kagoshima and that was scary, but luckily we were not at risk. Some of our players were fortunate that we had joined together for training at that point.

“We struggled to decide whether it was a good idea to persist with the tour. But Japan will overcome and with the world cup coming in 2019, rugby is becoming a more important part of society”.

Captain Shunsuke Nunomaki enjoyed his visit to Scotland. The 17-year-old said: “Things have been dark for us recently so the trip has helped us find some happiness again.

“We have been to Murrayfield to watch Scotland beat Italy, but it’s the food which has helped take our mind off things.

“It may not be the best preparation but we have been trying lots of haggis as well as fish and chips which we loved. We also went on a whiskey tour.

“I believe our win will give the victims courage and hope despite the desperate situation”.

Local man Ryuichi Itu was at the match with his son Leo (8). He moved to Newlands from Tokyo in 2006.

He told The Extra: “I have been on the phone to my parents and siblings constantly.

“Thankfully they are ok, but it has been important to me to be around my countrymen and see the rugby team take the first step in rebuilding the nation’s confidence”.

On the day, Japan were victorious with a deserved 20-13 victory against Scotland under 18’s which included GHA’s Adam Barnett (a Mearns Castle pupil) and Rory Hughes.

Mr Barnett told The Extra: “They played with a lot of passion and despite everything that has happened it was impressive that they were able to focus on rugby”.

Prior to the game, there was a collection for the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund and both teams and the crowd stopped for a moment’s silence.