KITAKYUSHU – A crowd of about 15,000 fans gathered to see Wales, one of the tournament favorites, hold the team’s first open training session in Japan on Monday ahead of the upcoming Rugby World Cup.
Wales, currently ranked No. 5 in the world, practiced for about an hour and a half in front of a full crowd at Mikuni World Stadium Kitakyushu in southwestern Fukuoka Prefecture.
Fans, many of them dressed in red and holding signs, sang the Welsh national anthem as players stepped into the ground, cheering as Warren Gatland’s squad went over their training menu ahead of their opening match against Georgia on Sept. 23.
Captain Alun Wyn Jones, the 33-year-old lock who will make his fourth World Cup appearance, thanked the fans in Japanese after the session.
Wales are aiming for their maiden title after finishing in the semifinals in 1987 and 2011. They claimed the Six Nations title this year with a grand slam and topped the world rankings for the first time in August.
The Welsh Rugby Union has made several visits to Kitakyushu in the lead-up to the tournament to hold clinics for local students as well as referees.
Meanwhile, other national teams also held training sessions in Japan to prepare for the World Cup, which opens on Friday.
The Brave Blossoms worked out in Tokyo, while their Pool A opponent Ireland, who will come into the World Cup as the world No. 1 side, held a workout session in Ichihara in Chiba Prefecture, near the Japanese capital.