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Johnson gets ready for night out in Tokyo

by Rich Freeman

Rugby fans, collectors of sports memorabilia, lovers of sporting trivia and those that enjoy the dry sarcastic humor made famous by British comedians over the years are in for a treat on June 10 at Tokyo’s Westin Hotel.

For that is the day the Martin Johnson roadshow hits town, as part of the rugby legend’s testimonial tour.

Kicking off with a game against a Jonah Lomu XV on June 4 at Twickenham, Johnson will then visit Hong Kong and Tokyo for a couple of dinner shows before heading south to watch the British and Irish Lions take on New Zealand.

One of the greatest players to have played the game, Johnson played his last game for his beloved Leicester Tigers earlier this month and is hoping to raise £1 million for charity as a result of proceeds from the events he is attending.

One item sure to make a fair amount is one of the four balls used during the 2003 Rugby World Cup final, won by a Johnson-inspired England team. The balls were bought by an English newspaper and while two are in the Rugby Football Union’s museum, the other two were given to Johnson and Jonny Wilkinson.

Not known for sentimentalities — though there are rumors that he was noticeably moved during his final week in competitive rugby — the giant of the game has decided to auction the ball off.

Johnson, while never one to mince his words, is a surprisingly amusing man — providing you do not get on the wrong side of him in a ruck — and will be accompanied by a number of other well-respected after-dinner speakers, who will no doubt test the former England captain’s renowned knowledge of sporting trivia.

Unfortunately, John Eales will not be among them as he has had to pull out of the Tokyo leg of the tour.

The visit is also good news for the Japan Rugby Football Union, as the last captain to raise the Webb Ellis Cup has said that he backs Japan’s bid to host the 2011 RWC, and will do all he can while in Tokyo to support the JRFU’S bid.

Besides the black-tie event at the Westin, there is also the opportunity for companies and/or individuals to have some private time with Johnson, no doubt over a drink or two now that he is no longer in training.

For more information on the various sponsorship opportunities and on the different table categories available please contact Robert Derry in Hong Kong on 852-2973-0181 or e-mail Rderry@ironmonger.com.hk

Crusaders cruising

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) Winger Scott Hamilton scored three tries Friday as the Canterbury Crusaders thrashed the Wellington Hurricanes 47-7 to reach their seventh Super 12 rugby final in a decade.

Hamilton was the only non-All Black in the Crusaders backline but he became the star a brilliant attacking performance which ensured next week’s season final will be staged in Christchurch.

Flyhalf Daniel Carter scored another of the Crusaders’ six tries and kicked three penalties and four conversions for a personal contribution of 22 points.

Hamilton prospered on the right wing, while on the left wing Rico Gear scored his 15th try to equal the tournament record set by Australia’s Joe Roff with the Brumbies in 1997.