SYDNEY – The CEO of Rugby Australia on Monday warned organizers of this year’s World Cup to be prepared to deal with spectators that can be more a little more exuberant than the typical Japanese fan.
Speaking with a group of Japanese media outlets at Rugby Australia headquarters in Sydney, Raelene Castle said Japanese are known for being orderly, lining up nicely and being calm and patient.
“That is not true of international rugby fans who are coming from all around the world,” she warned.
A large number of that boisterous foreign contingent will be Australia, according to World Rugby, with fans from that country purchasing 90,000 of the 1.8 million tickets sold for the Sept. 20-Nov. 2 tournament to be played across 12 Japanese cities.
Traditionally, English fans, well known for their loud singing voices and ubiquitous all-white jerseys, make up the largest World Cup traveling contingent. Australians make up the next biggest group.
Castle said, however, that Japan has already passed one test, with the third Bledisloe Cup match between Australia and New Zealand played in Yokohama last October proving a “very good practice game” for the Rugby World Cup organizing committee.
With a little over four months before the event kicks off, World Rugby has also endorsed Japan’s preparations, saying the country is on track in its efforts to deliver rugby’s biggest show in Asia for the first time.
When questioned about what Japan can learn from Australia in promoting the sport locally, Castle said the “very proud” Brave Blossoms have a unique and exciting style, but that there is room for improvement on the field.
“It would be very beneficial for Rugby Australia and Southern Hemisphere rugby if Japan were stronger and … more consistent on the world stage,” the 48-year-old Castle said, adding Rugby Australia has held talks with the Japanese Rugby Football Union about assisting with player development.
While pointing out that it is difficult to speak about another nation’s rugby setup, Castle said Japan must do everything it can to ensure more Japanese are playing for Japan.
“You need to develop your own Japanese players. Use the experience of other international players to help them grow and develop, but you need Japanese players playing for Japan,” she said.
While the Brave Blossoms do have a large number of foreign-born players, most notably captain Michael Leitch, who moved to Japan from New Zealand when he was 15, the situation is very similar for the Wallabies and many other rugby powers.
Several of the players that started for the Wallabies in that Bledisloe Cup game in Yokohama hail from outside of Australia, including Papua New Guinea-born scrumhalf Will Genia, Fiji-born backs Sefa Naivalu and Marika Koroibete, and former captain David Pocock, who was born and grew up in Zimbabwe.
“I think the development of that Top League competition that they’ve got, anything they can do to support that having more Japanese players play in it (is positive),” said Castle.
She added that Rugby Australia would do “whatever we can to help them grow and be more consistent … so that they can be really competitive against the other Southern Hemisphere countries.”