Roads lined with followers and a stadium filled with cheering on watchers additionally greeted the Welsh rugby staff within the Japanese metropolis of Kitakyushu after they arrived on Saturday.
The Japanese metropolis is Wales’ base for his or her pre-Rugby World Cup camp, and the locals have actually dedicated to adopting the Welsh as their second staff.
“You see folks driving previous if you cease at visitors lights and so they’ll acknowledge the three feathers and so they begin banging the home windows and waving. It is nice they’re supporting us a lot.”
It is no coincidence that Wales-mania is blossoming in Kitakyushu.
After Wales performed Japan in Cardiff in 2016, the WRU established a program aimed toward constructing a “home-away-from-home” for when the Welsh staff arrived at their pre-tournament base forward of the 2019 Rugby World Cup’s begin.
During the last three years, the WRU has organized clinics for younger youngsters in Kitakyushu, run teaching programs for folks seeking to get entangled within the sport in addition to selling Welsh tradition.
“We’re hoping that the staff goes to get actually shocked by the heat and the quantity of individuals which are conscious of Welsh rugby,” WRU enterprise growth supervisor Rhys Williams advised CNN Sport forward of the staff’s arrival in Japan.
“It simply amazes me how a lot effort they’re placing into it. They’re clearly wanting on the World Cup and saying, ‘this is a chance for us to provide experiences to our residents, to permit them to have interaction with the World Cup in any format but in addition get to go meet, see, assist and think about a global rugby facet.'”
Creating the sport
Japan will turn out to be the primary Asian facet to host a rugby World Cup when the Courageous Blossoms face Russia within the match’s curtain-raiser on September 20.
Whereas easily integrating the Welsh gamers into their new Japanese environment was all the time the first goal of the venture, growing the recognition of rugby in Japan was additionally a key WRU purpose.
“We have been introducing younger girls and boys, women and men, in a position and unable into rugby, no matter degree of their engagement is,” Williams mentioned.
“We have been teaching coaches and we have additionally been teaching referees. What we’re making an attempt to do is construct a holistic base that hopefully rugby can thrive throughout the space. Participating would not should all the time be contact rugby or 15 on 15 as predominantly what they see is males’s rugby.
“It may simply be having enjoyable with abilities, drills, retaining match, well being and well-being … studying communication abilities or the soft-core abilities that rugby helps develop inside any social staff that play alongside the size and breadth of Wales each weekend.”
A welcoming nation
Throughout five-day spells in Japan, Welsh rugby coaches skilled over a thousand folks of all ages.
Envoys from the WRU even performed a component within the current Wasshoi pageant — Kitakyushu’s largest summer time pageant — the place they carried out a four-and-a-half minute dance with 1000’s of native residents.
“Each time we go over there, we’re simply amazed by the heat and the way in which we’re all the time welcomed by the Japanese folks and residents,” mentioned the 39-year-old Williams — a former Welsh worldwide.
“Each time, the experiences that we get, and our coaches get, and our staff get is simply phenomenal with the welcome, the engagement actions that we do, attending to know each other’s cultures, studying how you can coach rugby with out with the ability to converse the language in any respect.
“So, having to develop your teaching types with extra visible aids and with physique language relatively than simply relying in your phrases.”
Whereas neighboring cities Kumamoto, Fukuoka and Oita will all host video games through the match, the omission of Kitakyushu as a venue might need been perceived negatively by the locals.
However within the absence of any video games, the town has totally embraced the Welsh staff and the nation’s tradition with flags of the Purple Dragon flying excessive, daffodils on show and Welsh truffles being served.