Of the 31 gamers representing Japan’s Courageous Blossoms on the Rugby World Cup, 16 are overseas born. Solely Tonga (19) and Samoa (18) have extra. However with Japan’s squad encompassing seven totally different nationalities, it’s the most diverse at the tournament.
The staff — captained by New Zealand-born Michael Leitch — can also be arguably a microcosm of Japan. As proven in a CNN report last year
, the numbers of overseas nationals now working within the nation have swelled from 300,000 in 2007 to 1.46 million in 2018. What’s extra, these imports are welcome additions as 59% of Japanese polled believed immigrants make the nation stronger.
South African flanker Pieter “Lappies” Labuschagne typifies Japan’s variety and has repaid the love of the general public in type. He skippered Japan to a famous 19-12 win over Ireland
— Leitch had began on the bench, although he was launched within the first half — earlier than steering the staff to inside touching distance of the quarterfinals after a 38-19 triumph over Samoa
“It is not one I might have set out for myself, nevertheless it’s positively been a extremely good one,” he advised CNN World Rugby’s Alex Thomas
when reflecting on his profession. “I’ve loved each minute since we have been in Japan. Not solely me, my household as nicely. The persons are wonderful and pleasant. Japan is a phenomenal nation. They’ve an amazing tradition over right here. You simply need to signify Japan and all of the folks you understand.”
The 30-year-old Labuschagne nonetheless speaks with the thick Afrikaans accent from his native Pretoria, however quoted a Japanese proverb when talking concerning the his facet’s tantalizing prospects.
“We now have a saying in Japan that claims ‘ippo ippo mae e,’ which suggests one step at a time,” Labuschagne mentioned when requested about the potential of dealing with his countrymen within the final eight.
Japan will face South Africa if it beats Scotland on Sunday in Yokohama. The sport is unsure as Hurricane Hagibis is scheduled to make landfall on Saturday and has already precipitated the cancellation of two World Cup fixtures — England towards France and Italy towards New Zealand. If the sport doesn’t go forward as deliberate, the outcome will probably be rendered a Zero-Zero draw with each Japan and Scotland sharing two factors apiece.
With the Courageous Blossoms topping Pool A with 14 factors forward of Eire on 11 and Scotland on 10, the host will safe passage to the quarterfinals for the primary time in its historical past with a win or a weather-enforced draw.
Representing the (adopted) nation
Japan has defied expectations at this World Cup. The historic win over South Africa
within the final version was heralded on the time as the best shock in rugby’s historical past. However that was extensively chalked off as a one-off occasion.
“We had a purpose moving into to the World Cup and we all know we’ve not achieved it but,” mentioned Labuschagne.
“We knew folks did not actually give us an opportunity [before the Ireland game] however we knew how exhausting we had labored and we had ready rather well for the sport,” he added.
“There was a perception that we may really win the sport. Throughout the staff there was a extremely good feeling.”
That good feeling is fueled by cultures from throughout the globe. However Japan is greater than a house for rugby’s nomads — a formidable unit which attracts power from variety.