With Japan hosting Rugby World Cup 2019, developing the country’s Rugby infrastructure takes on added significance, writes Ian Gilbert
The sporting world might have been preoccupied with a certain gathering in London of late, but for one dedicated group in Japan recently the focus has been Rugby World Cup 2019 and beyond.
Tokyo hosted the latest International Rugby Board training “superweek”, arming a new crop of instructors with the skills to produce capable coaches and referees.
Yuichi Ueno, the Japan Rugby Football Union’s (JRFU) High Performance Chairman, called the IRB event “a magnificent opportunity to develop the Japanese rugby leaders”.
“We are now preparing for RWC 2019 in Japan, therefore we need these educational opportunities for coaches and match officials,” said Ueno.
Those taking the Educator course opt to instruct either match officials or coaches, and the concentrated training week enables the Trainers to deliver both programmes.
Ueno and fellow IRB Trainers Jarrad Gallagher (New Zealand) and Gene Tong (Singapore) delivered expert tutelage to 13 aspiring Educators – all Japanese, apart from Patrick Kwok, a Community Rugby Officer with the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU).
Sharing the experience
Kwok talks about the coaching required for Asia’s “growing Rugby family”, adding: “The skills I have had gained on this course will enable me to share my experience and facilitate IRB courses throughout Hong Kong with my new role at HKRFU, which is to recruit and develop young people to become referees.”
One participant was Tomohiro Segawa, Japan’s Sevens coach, who said: “As a coach I think I can teach courses and use the skills to develop both coaches within Japan and also myself.”
In addition, Japan’s Fumitaka Kohno and Takashi Obara took the course to become Educator Trainers, and the week featured Rugby Ready, Level 1 Match Official and Level 2 Coaching courses.
The Trainers were also joined at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground – where Japan sealed the HSBC Asian 5 Nations title in May – by Jennifer Wilson, the IRB’s Technical Services Administrator, who swapped her Dublin headquarters for the sweltering conditions of Tokyo in late-July.
Ueno remarked: “The efforts afforded to us by the IRB staff Jarrad Gallagher, Gene Tong, Lee Smith and Jennifer Wilson were massive.”
The polyglot nature of world rugby meant Ueno’s translation skills were as invaluable as his rugby prowess – Narutoshi Miyaura, one of the Coach Educators, praised “the help of Kaori (translator) and Yuichi Ueno, we had great support and it became easier”.
The format of the training camp saw participants test their skills immediately, delivering an IRB Rugby Ready and Level 2 Coaching course.
Tong, the IRB Regional Training Co-ordinator for Asia, explained: “The Educators who had just earned their spurs were tasked to deliver immediately after their course, and had a great experience too as they were able to put to practice what they had learned.”
Japan, with more than 120,000 players, 1,500-plus clubs and having competed at every Rugby World Cup, is the region’s rugby hub. The strategy of “Train the Trainers” is intended to create a “cascade” effect as Educators take skills back to their clubs.
Kazuhiro Uemira, a Match Official Educator, said: “The higher skills we are expected to have, the more likely we are to be afraid of making mistakes in front of others. However, we learned we don't have to worry about making mistakes and everyone can learn from the mistake itself.”
Once the hard work was completed, the JRFU held a reception where Tatsuzo Yabe, Chairman of the host union and an IRB Council member, spoke.
The success of the superweek is summed up neatly by Kwok: “As Educators, we have a mission and vision to deliver quality courses and maintain the core values of the Game.”