Ex All-Black John Kirwan coaches the Japanese ‘Brave B;ossoms’ Rugby team who fought so tirelessly against France at the match at North Harbour Stadium on Saturday. He should be very proud of his team. The score – 47 to France, 21 to Japan, does nothing to reflect the psychological and physical dominance of the Japanese over the rather desperate French in this Rugby World Cup match. The Japanese rugby team showed great perseverance, drive and initiative, and they were very fast. They had possession of the ball for much of the time. The overall weight of the Japanese did not match up to anything like the French bulk, but the Japanese were not daunted by the fear of injury, and braved the worst of it fast and fearlessly. As the Scottish commentator Gavin Hastings said: ‘These guys can run all day.”
The excited crowd were very much on the side of the Japanese. They roared and whooped and hollered their support for Japan in no way seen before. They were really hoping for a win by Japan. I think we New Zealanders, having suffered our own terrible disasters in Christchurch, and at the Pike River Mine, feel very much for the Japanese who have lost so much: Almost 30,000 people died in Japan because of the tsunami earlier this year – whole villages of people wiped out. Thousands of people are still living in temporary housing, and the threat of radiation poisoning is a concern for almost everyone. It was certainly heart warming to see the crowd getting right in behind the Japanese team – New Zealanders and many, many Internationals to the tune of around 30,000 people in volume, packed into the North Harbour Stadium at Albany, north of Auckland, shouting their heads off for the Japanese.
We remember the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior: Perhaps, too, the French side did not earn quite so much applause as the Japanese, because New Zealanders still have a grudge against the French, who blew up our Rainbow Warrior Greenpeace protest ship in Auckland Harbour, around 20 years ago. The Rainbow Warrior Peace Ship was the vessel used by Greenpeace New Zealand to protest against the French nuclear bomb tests at Mururoa Atoll in the Pacific, close to New Zealand. The nuclear fall-out from these tests was a concern for all islands in the Pacific ocean, including New Zealand. This bombing killed one man and put the Greenpeace protest ship out of action for good. Unfair tactics by the French, as the French spies were posing as supporters of the Greenpeace endeavour, if I remember correctly. And then, to rub more salt into the wound, these three spies were sent back to France where we expected they would be tried, but were let off completely by the French government (of course), and revered as heroes.
I have seen half a dozen matches since Friday’s opening, and so far this match between Japan and France has been the most exciting of them all. I wouldn’t say that I am an avid rugby fan, and I actually have found Paul Henry’s flippant remarks about the rugby hype we have all endured in the weeks leading up to the big event of the World Cup, quite funny. But here we are – Maori television is playing ALL 48 OF THE RUGBY WORLD CUP MATCHES, and I find that I cannot resist watching most of them, time permitting.
The New Zealander in the Japanese team, James Aldridge, who is from Hamilton, won all the points for Japan, but not without the strategic moves of the Japanese team who earned the chance for a kick at goal. Unfortunately, James Aldridge missed several of his goals, which of course made a difference to the score, ending up with a victory to France. But what a game : The Japanese don’t give up easily, and their ‘touch-and-go’ attitude meant that they actually stood a very good chance of winning. Maybe next time, they might do it…. Go Japan, we are right behind you.