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Match against Japan serious business for members of World XV

by Rich Freeman

Kyodo

Any thoughts local rugby fans had that this weekend’s game between a World XV and Japan meant little to the visitors other than a chance to have a fun week in Tokyo were dispelled Wednesday by none other than renowned rugby comic Nick Cummins.

The Honey Badger, as he is known, has become a cult hero due to his catchphrases and amusing post-match interviews, and while there were plenty of anecdotes, he was deadly serious about Saturday’s game at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.

Cummins is one of a number of Australians for whom the match is a chance to impress Wallabies coach Michael Cheika and prove that they are worthy of a ticket to England in September for the Rugby World Cup.

“We’ve got older guys coming to the end of their careers and young guys vying for a spot at the World Cup,” Cummins said. “While there are two different mindsets, the old guys don’t want to let the young guys down. They know what it’s like to play at a World Cup and the memories it creates. In their own mind the worst thing they can do is ruin it for the young blokes coming through.”

One of those “older blokes” is Ali Williams, who played 77 tests and in three World Cups for the All Blacks, including the successful 2011 campaign.

“There a lot of guys vying for a spot in their national team and it’s going to be great trying to help them,” he said. “One of the unique things about a World XV or the Barbarians is that they have traditional rugby club values.

“While you like to have fun off the field when it comes to the game we are very serious and will do everything we can to win.”

For the likes of Williams and legendary Springbok lock and 2007 Rugby World Cup winner Bakkies Botha, doing all they can to win means making sure they win enough ball for the talented World XV backs to attack the Japan defense.

And Cummins, reverting to form, was certainly hopeful that would happen.

“If they give me half a chance I’ll be like a rat up a drain. If I can get my hand on the seed I’ll hopefully grab some meat and then tell a few stories after,” he said, much to the bemusement of his interpreter, who needed more than a bit of help explaining to the local media that the seed was the ball and meat meant tries.

Botha spoke as he played — direct and to the point.

“When I finished up with Toulon in France (on) June I thought my rugby life was over. But getting the invite to come here to Tokyo (for the first time) was the main reason I decided to play on.”

Saturday’s game also gives the giant South African a chance to catch up with Japan coach Eddie Jones, who was a technical director with the Springboks when they won the World Cup in France.

“Eddie was phenomenal for us back in 2007,” said Botha. “He played a big role in the South African team and it was wonderful to have him there.

“The way he thinks the game is amazing. It will be a tough game at the weekend and I hope we can ask as many questions as we can to help Japan prepare for this year’s World Cup.”

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