Japanese tourists go in search of credibility

Dave Hadfield assesses the difficulties facing one of rugby league's new recruits

On Friday night, the Japanese student rugby league team delighted spectators at Warrington with their display of synchronised and ceremonial bowing.

Less than 24 hours later, they showed rather less cohesion in conceding 90 points to Scotland in their opening match in the Halifax Student Rugby League World Cup.

That is the quandary when the game goes exotic. On the one hand, the Japanese, snapping pictures of each other like any band of young tourists, are welcomed as colourful newcomers. On the field, with France to play tonight and England on Saturday, there is the danger of serious embarrassment, not to mention loss of face.

The other way of looking at it is to say that it is a miracle that they are here at all - and conceding as few as 90 points - because the code in Japan has had the bumpiest of rides. Despite the gut feeling that the Japanese, with their lack of line-out jumpers and specialist scrummagers and love of running the ball, are more naturally suited to league, it has proved difficult to convince them of that.

"We had 35 players at one session," said Max Mannix, a former Sydney first-grade player whose mission in life this is. "Then they found out it was rugby league and the following week we had two. It has to do with Japanese society, where being part of the group is very important. If you step outside, you can be ostracised."

Even when Japan managed to field a side in the Sydney Sevens, they were disqualified for not being Japanese enough, when they fielded Mannix's younger brother, Greg. "It was racism pure and simple," he said. "These blokes are discriminated against already, so we don't need that sort of thing on top of it."

It was the partial conversion of the president of the previously hostile Japanese Rugby Union that has made life slightly easier for Mannix and his group. "He saw Wigan play Bath and came back saying that, although he wouldn't actively help us, he wouldn't put barriers in our path either," said Ken Isaacs, another expatriate Australian, who played for Halifax in 1984/85 and is now Japan's team manager.

Mannix and Co needed that concession when they lost their sponsor a couple of weeks before the tour. That meant that a number of players were forced to drop out and, to make up their numbers, they held a session at Osaka University rugby union club, from which they filled up their empty places.

"We have been told that there will be no comeback against these players," Mannix said, "but we won't really know that until we get home."

It is what happens here that is of immediate concern, especially after that 90-6 hammering by the Scots. "Not only was it the first time many of them had played 13-a-side rugby league, it was the first time that they had played on grass, against foreigners or in front of a crowd," Isaacs said. "The result doesn't show lack of commitment, but just lack of knowledge and technique."

It was not surprising that the Japanese players should huddle around the play-the-ball in defence like a tour party around their guide's umbrella. "But I expect a hundred per cent improvement in our other two games," said Isaacs, who pays tribute to the Western Samoan team who have unofficially adopted them.

"The Samoans have been great. They have taken our blokes under their wing and given them a training session to help them work out what they need to do." Everyone, in fact, wants the Japanese to come through unscathed and with some pride intact. "Look at them," said one Scot as the clans from Tokyo and Osaka got to grips with a Highland Fling at the welcome barbecue for the competing teams last week. "They can always do a copy that's better than the original."

Isaacs hopes the talent for fast learning applies to picking up the rhythms of rugby league as well.

TODAY'S FIXTURES: HALIFAX STUDENT WORLD CUP Pool C: England v Scotland (7.0) (at Gateshead); France v Japan (7.0) (at Hull).

Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Morrissey pictured in 2013
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine