Rugby

Brave Blossoms star Kenki Fukuoka sets sights on Tokyo Olympics

Kyodo

Rugby World Cup star Kenki Fukuoka said Saturday he was relieved to score a try in his final 15s match of the season as he shifts his focus toward this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

“I’m happy and relieved,” Fukuoka said after his Panasonic Wild Knights defeated Toyota Verblitz 40-20 at Toyota Stadium.

His every touch for the visitors sent a buzz through the crowd of 37,050 — the largest ever see a Japan Top League game. He capped the drama by assisting on one try and scoring another late in the second half.

Fukuoka, who competed in sevens at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, will be at a three-day camp in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, where he will participate as a training-squad member in his bid to make the Olympic team.

“My goal is to be able to produce the ultimate results I am capable of,” Fukuoka said.

The 27-year-old scored four tries for the Brave Blossoms during the Rugby World Cup, helping Japan reach the knockout stage for the first time. Jamie Joseph’s side won all four pool matches before losing to eventual champion South Africa in the quarterfinals.

Kotaro Matsushima, whose five tries at the World Cup led Japan, said Fukuoka has also been encouraging him to try for the Olympic team.

“Kenki keeps telling me to come with him,” said Matsushima, who plays for Suntory Sungoliath, but is reportedly being pursued by French club Clermont for next season. “Right now, I’m conflicted about my priorities. I want to keep my thinking flexible.”

Japan finished fourth in Rio, losing to South Africa in the bronze medal match.

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