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).

Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Sport
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
sport
News
peopleComedian star of Ed Sullivan Show was mother to Ben Stiller
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
News
George Osborne became Chancellor in 2010
peopleChancellor accused of reneging on pre-election promise
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
News
Lena Headey plays Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern