Rugby

Michael Leitch says Japan must become 'One Team' to beat coronavirus

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff writer

“One Team,” the slogan used by Japan's Brave Blossoms at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, was selected as the 2019 buzzword of the year.

Now team captain Michael Leitch believes that the whole country needs to become “One Team” to overcome the COVID-19 crisis.

Speaking to local reporters during an online news conference on Friday, Leitch said that while the Japanese public is facing tough times and radical changes in daily life during the national state of emergency, people need to have the "One Team" mentality in order to follow instructions from government and listen to health advice to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

“What’s important in being ‘One Team’ is that each and every person acts responsibly,” Leitch said.

The 31-year-old flanker continued: “Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe and Tokyo Gov. (Yuriko) Koike (among others) have told us to not go out, and if every one of us takes proper action, we can avoid spreading this disease as ‘One Team.’”

As an elite player, Leitch said he was certainly disappointed that the Top League season was abruptly called off late last month. But he has tried to not dwell too much on things he cannot control, instead choosing to be as productive as possible during his ample time away from the field.

“Toshiba had done well this year and we were running for the championship,” said Leitch, whose Brave Lupus had a 5-0 record when the season ended. “But it’s very regrettable that the season was canceled due to the coronavirus. However, our lives are the most important thing and I think (the league) made the right decision to not spread it out.”

The Christchurch native, who became a Japanese citizen in 2013, has cherished his time with his family doing things he could rarely do while playing rugby.

The 189-cm Leitch said that he has been working out by jumping rope, joking that he has been learning some techniques through YouTube videos.

“I can do (double skipping) for two to three times at a time,” said Leitch, who has also purchased dumbbells to train at home. “But I’m aiming for 10 times. It’s kind of difficult because you have to coordinate with your hands and legs. If I get better with this, I can improve my physical ability.”

He said that he has been given more time to read, something he had been unable to do since he began competing in the Top League nearly a decade ago.

“I’ve been spending quality time reading many books that I’ve bought,” said Leitch, one of the key players behind the Brave Blossoms' successful pool stage and first-ever quarterfinals appearance at last year’s World Cup. “I don’t have too much stress about not being able to play rugby.”

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