Dave Walder, former England fly half who currently plays for Japanese side Mitsubishi Dynaboars, shares his thoughts and first-hand experience on the growth and popularity of rugby in Japan in the build up to RWC 2019…
It is a surprising statistic that Japan has the 4th highest number of people playing rugby yet is still struggling to break into the world's top ten. Often at the weekend the four main Japanese sports channels air hours of live university and high school rugby, where the stadiums are nearly at capacity, yet when the likes of Sonny Bill-Williams and George Smith are on show, the stands are empty.
In Japan there is massive loyalty to your university and it is expected that your ties remain strong throughout whatever career you decide to pursue, hence the huge support that university rugby enjoys. If the World Cup in 2019 isn't to be played in front of half empty stadiums, it is the job of the Japanese RFU to find a way of tempting these supporters to show the same loyalty to the sport as to their team.
On the playing front, clubs and their owners are committed to attracting the superstars of the game but are still to learn about the marketing power said players bring with them. Grass roots rugby is everywhere but the standard of coaching and commitment to old fashioned theories such as ‘longer is better’, is putting people off from playing into adulthood. It is no surprise that the teams at the top of the Japanese leagues have a strong Western influence in their coaching staff and this is a model I believe needs to be copied throughout the leagues if Japanese coaches - and mindsets - are to change.
Eddie Jones, Japanese national rugby union coach, is slowly turning things round on the pitch but if the World Cup in Japan is to be a success, it is vital that the Japanese RFU doesn't get left too far behind and embraces change rather than fearing it. Over the next few years, the Tokyo leg of the IRB Sevens should be a perfect place to try out marketing strategies in order to attract people through the turnstiles, helping to provide a great atmosphere for games both in the lead up to and at the 2019 World Cup.
About the author
David Walder is a rugby union player for Mitsubishi Dynaboars in Japan, having signed for them from London Wasps at the end of the 2010/11 season. David joined London Wasps from Newcastle Falcons in summer 2006.
Ex South African international and Sky Sports Living for Sport mentor Thinus Delport discusses the role that rugby has played in his development and how his work with Sky Sports is proof that the sport can have a positive impact on even the unlikeliest of groups…
Rugby has been an integral part of my life. It has been the biggest contributor to the development of the person I am today.
From a young farm boy playing on the grass patch outside of our farmhouse in the Eastern Cape with my brother and cousins mimicking our Springbok heroes, it has taken me around the world and given me the opportunity to play professional rugby in three continents over the last 14 years.
Rugby has supplied me with countless unforgettable memories, friendships that will last for a lifetime and most importantly, crucial life skills to survive in an unforgiving world outside the four white lines.
I decided to hang up my boots in 2010 after my stint in Japan and suddenly found myself in that awkward, isolated, transitional stage experienced by the majority of retirees. No more daily changing room banter or texts to meet up after training for coffee!
Fortunately I was able to quickly fill that void by joining my current team; as one of over 70 athlete mentors, I’m part of a group of sportsmen and women that have competed or currently compete at an international level that have been brought together to deliver the Sky Sports Living for Sport (SSLFS) programme.
Currently celebrating its tenth anniversary, Sky Sports Living for Sport is a free, sport-based initiative aimed at 11 – 16 year olds and run in partnership with the Youth Sports Trust.
The programme focuses on boosting confidence, changing behaviour, increasing attainment, improving life skills and supporting all young people to achieve their sporting best in school and their personal best in life. Since 2003, over 50,000 young people have benefitted from this initiative and by the end of July, 3000 school visits will have been completed by athlete mentors.
It is heart-warming to see so many schools run their projects around rugby and tag rugby as the main focus and I’ve experienced first-hand how the healthy rugby environment can truly bring out the best in young people.
One of my most memorable school visits was with a group of slightly disengaged girls, who, after taking part in a set of rugby drills outside on the muddy playing field, enjoyed intimidating the Year 7 boys with their own rendition of the Haka!
Another wonderful example is of young Wayne Instrell who was recently awarded the SSLFS Student of the Year award. Through taking up rugby he was able to turn his life around by overcoming bullying and building enough confidence to re-integrate into mainstream classes.
Playing rugby from a young age will instil many core values like teamwork, respect, discipline, enjoyment and sportsmanship that can change your game.
About the author
Thinus Delport is a South African ex rugby union player who played wing and fullback both internationally and at club level, where he started his career with the Lions before joining Gloucester in 2002. Thinus then moved to Worcester Warriors in 2004 and Japanese side Kobelco Steelers in 2008.
For more information on Sky Sports Living for Sport programme visit http://livingforsport.skysports.com/.
The Barclays Premier League leaders have announced the withdrawal of Old Trafford from the list of potential venues for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
The decision was made by the Old Trafford board and groundstaff over concerns of scheduling and damage to the pitch, which is to be re-laid this summer combining grass and artificial fibres in contrast to the existing all-grass surface.
It is believed that features of rugby union including scrums and rucks could lead to long lasting damage to the pitch.
Alongside the demanding schedule faced by its Premier League side which is likely to see the team involved in three competitions at the time of the tournament, Old Trafford is already contracted to host Super League Grand Finals and will be the venue for the Rugby League World Cup Final this November.
It is rumoured that Rugby World Cup Ltd. are now in talks with United’s local rivals Manchester City about using the Etihad Stadium instead, with the current Premier League Champions already contemplating the expansion of its stadium from 48,000 to 60,000 seats. This news would have only come as a relief to the competition’s organisers, who are currently faced with a significant deficit in ticket sales following the withdrawal of Old Trafford with its 76,000-seat capacity.
The 2015 Rugby World Cup must achieve a target of 2.9 million ticket sales in order to meet the £80m fee guaranteed to the IRB before being awarded the tournament in 2009.
A final announcement is due later this month with the Olympic Stadium expected to be on the list of confirmed venues.
Super League Europe Ltd (SLE), operators of the elite rugby league competition in Europe, has announced male grooming brand Brut has been added to its list of commercial partners.
The deal will see the famous brand become the official aftershave and deodorant of the Super League competition in a deal that covers all 14 of the Super League clubs.
An official press release confirmed the details of the agreement: “Brut will receive a comprehensive range of sponsorship assets including extensive in-ground advertising through perimeter boards, match-day programme advertising, interview backdrops and referee sleeve patches; as well as ticketing, hospitality, exclusive promotions and access to Super League players.”
On top of these advertising opportunities, Brut will also look to activate the sponsorship through a number of social media campaigns run throughout the season.
Eoin Mullen, Brut marketing manager, said: “We are excited to partner such an iconic brand as Brut with Super League. Brut has always defined the ‘real man’, and the synergy between us and Super League is instantly recognisable. We are very much looking forward to working with the clubs in our first season of the partnership.”
James Mercer, commercial director at SLE, added: “We are delighted to have a brand with such history and heritage associated with Super League. Brut is a brand that sits perfectly with rugby league, and we look forward to working with them, further immersing Brut within Super League over the term of the partnership. There are lots of opportunities that we look forward to working together on, during the course of the season, and beyond.”
The deal sees Brut join the likes of Heinz, Irn Bru, Polar, Rhino and Tetley as official sponsors of Super League, although the competition remains without a headline sponsor following the cancelation of Stobart’s “cashless” title sponsorship at the end of the 2012 season after just 12 months.
It may have been seen by some as sacrilegious, but insurance company AIG’s shirt sponsorship of the New Zealand Rugby (NZR) jersey has been cited as a crucial factor in the governing body announcing its first operating profit in five years.
The organisation has reported a NZ$3.2 million (US$2.7 million) profit for 2012, following an operating loss of NZ$3.1 million in 2011. NZR had initially planned for a break even budget for the year, a mark they have exceeded as a result of the somewhat controversial sponsorship agreement.
Only once before has the famous All Blacks jersey carried the name of a commercial partner, with beer brand Steinlager appearing on the right side of the jersey in the 1990’s, but never emblazoned across the front of the iconic kit. A five-and-a-half year deal announced in October 2012 by the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) has provided vital revenue for the world’s strongest rugby nation, who had seen their profits disappear as a result of the financial backing provided to Provincial Unions and Investec Super Rugby franchises. NZRU Chief Executive Steve Tew welcomed the news and stressed the importance of the somewhat contentious commercial partnership:
“This is an extremely satisfying result and underlines our success in driving greater commercial revenue and containing our costs. We are now in a much stronger financial position. The new partnership with insurance company AIG has made a difference. Significantly, we have secured a major portion of our commercial revenues over the medium term through the relationships with principal partner Adidas, broadcast partner Sky and now AIG.”
Tew continued: “It's important to remember that in recent years we maintained an annual investment of around $19 million in funding to Provincial Unions and Investec Super Rugby franchises in order to safeguard the game during challenging times. The consequence of that was a reduction in reserves and successive operating losses. That was clearly not sustainable. Our improved position gives New Zealand Rugby a sound base to make decisions on future investment in the game. We will now take the time to review an appropriate level of reserves for an organisation of our size and risk profile.”
The AIG deal equates to one of the most lucrative sponsorship agreements in world rugby, second only to NZRU’s own agreement with sports brand Adidas.
Italy Rugby League met with the country’s Olympic Committee this month as the team prepares for its World Cup debut at RLWC2013.
The meeting was attended by Italian Rugby League Federation’s (FIRL) vice president Tiziano Franchini and treasurer Fabio Di Pietro and secretary general of the National Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) Roberto Fabbricini, as the trio discussed the development of rugby league in Italy, preparations for RLWC2013 and gaining official recognition for rugby league as a sport in Italy.
Commenting on the meeting, vice president Tiziano Franchini, said: "The meeting was crucial for the future of rugby league in Italy, our request for an interview was received by the secretary general in a very quick and positive manner.
"This first meeting was an opportunity to make formal contact with the national body that manages the sport in Italy, to carry forward the process of official recognition of rugby league here."
Secretary Fabbricini agreed to work alongside the FIRL to begin the process of official recognition of the sport and expressed an appreciation for the documentation submitted, which included its activity report, development plan and a letter of support from the Rugby League European Federation.
During the meeting, Fabio Di Pietro invited the president of CONI John Malagò and the Secretary General to attend the team’s first game at the RLWC 2013, where they will be taking on Wales at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff on October 26.
Italy will then play Scotland on November 3, before their final group game against Tonga on Sunday November 10.
The RaboDirect PRO12 and YouTube have announced a new agreement which will bring highlights of games to rugby fans worldwide.
Last weekend’s fixtures were the first to be broadcast on the new YouTube channel, youtube.com/rabodirectpro12, with almost 130,000 views posted already.
Extensive in-game highlights of rugby’s premier competition for Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy are currently available, with more comprehensive highlights when the matches finish.
Commenting on the deal, tournament director David Jordan said: "We are very pleased with this achievement, our aim has always been to bring the RaboDirect PRO12 to as many people as possible and this YouTube channel has given us the opportunity to do so. It supplements our reach across all audiences.
“Our competition is thriving - attendance figures are up by approximately 5%, TV audiences by 28% and website unique users by 20%. We feel that this partnership will bring our competition to a new level. It allows us to bring the RaboDirect PRO12 to a much bigger audience worldwide".
Stephen Nuttall, Senior Director, Sports for YouTube Europe, Middle East and Africa, said:
"Building on our recent partnership with the RBS Six Nations, we're delighted that highlights of the RaboDirect PRO12 season will now be available to YouTube users. The RaboDirect PRO12 features many of Europe's top teams and players, and we strongly believe that YouTube will help bring it to a much broader, global audience."
In the penultimate round of the inaugural IRB Women’s Seven’s World Series, New Zealand displayed clinical finishing and a robust defence in the tournament final, winning 19-6 against an in-form England in Guangzhou, China.
In the third of a four round series, an inspirational performance from Kelly Brazier who contributed 12 of the 19 points helped New Zealand run in three tries against an England side full of confidence on the back of their victory in the previous round in Houston, USA.
The victory for New Zealand, achieved in incredibly wet conditions across the whole two days, has put them firmly in the driving seat to win the series title, needing only to reach the semi-finals of the next and final event in Amsterdam, Netherlands in May to claim the overall crown of this inaugural series.
England got off to a fantastic start in the final, with Kat Merchant crossing to give her side a 5-0 lead. However, the speed, skill and aggression of the Black Ferns proved too much, with Ruby Tui touching down to bring the eventual winners level. Kelly Brazier converted to put New Zealand in front, before following up with two tries of her own to put the series leaders out of sight.
Following the win, New Zealand head coach Sean Horan was full of praise for his side: “I am incredibly proud of the team and the work they put in over the two days. They stuck to their plan and were perfectly clinical in their execution of that game plan.
“They showed a very superior set of skills and despite the monsoon-like conditions we had for two days, they were exceptional in their ball handling.”
Elsewhere in the tournament, Canada defeated neighbours USA in the third place play off match, with Ireland and Japan claiming the competition’s Plate and Bowl finals respectively.
The New Zealand victory leaves them on 54 points, eight points clear of England on 46 heading into the final series event in Amsterdam. Australia remains in third on 38.
The fifth edition of Rugby Expo, the world’s leading conference and exhibition for all members of the international rugby community, will take place on Wednesday 13 – Thursday 14 November at Twickenham Stadium.
With the positive feedback from 2012 and reputation for the event continuing to build, Rugby Ventures, the management team behind the event, is delighted to confirm its continued partnership with Twickenham Experience, as the home of the 2015 RWC final plays host to Rugby Expo for the third time.
In a series of upcoming announcements, Rugby Ventures has also confirmed changes to the structure of the content on day one (professional game focus) with Rugby Expo set to host three new master class summits focusing on stadia and ticketing, social media and marketing, and commercial and sponsorship.
The summits will run alongside main stage plenary sessions where delegates will hear from some of the biggest names in the sports industry, which, at Rugby Expo 2012, included the RFU’s chairman Bill Beaumont and CEO Ian Ritchie, Aviva Premiership CEO Mark McCafferty, sports entrepreneur Barry Hearn and European PGA Tour CEO George O’Grady.
The conference programme will form an integral part of the first day, which is designed exclusively for all those involved in the professional game including clubs, leagues, rights holders, brands, agencies and other suppliers to the sport.
Day two will switch its focus to the grass roots game, following 2012’s format with plenary sessions and a series of workshops scheduled. Throughout both days Rugby Expo will also host an exhibition showcasing many of the sport’s most innovative products and services.
Explaining the changes to content, event director, Jonathan Wilson said, “As we move the event forwards, we find ourselves in constant dialogue with the clubs, brands and other stakeholders involved in the sport and so we recognise the challenges and also the areas of greatest opportunity.
“The new summits allow us to combine a series of themes, creating a set of specialist events that enable more people to engage in their key areas of work with leaders in their respective industries. This is in addition to the main event of Rugby Expo, the plenary session debates, the networking and the chance to meet with key individuals in the sport.”
The event continues to work with and be supported by many of the sport’s most influential organisations including the International Rugby Board, Premiership Rugby, ERC and all home nations. In 2012 Rugby Expo attracted more than 1,000 attendees, as well as a sold out exhibition floor for the second consecutive year and hosted more than 300 grass roots clubs.
Commenting on the launch of this year’s event, John Hockey, chairman of Rugby Ventures, owners of Rugby Expo said: “We are delighted to be able to confirm our return to Twickenham for 2013. The venue offers the ideal location, facilities and set up for Rugby Expo as the event combines a comprehensive conference and workshop programme and exhibition floor.
“The event has been well supported by the RFU and Twickenham Experience and we are already engaging with a number of key organisations. With further announcements soon to follow, Rugby Expo 2013 will undoubtedly be the biggest and best instalment yet.”
Following today’s announcement that London Welsh’s appeal against a point deduction for fielding an ineligible player has been turned down, the club has its say on the news that sees them five points adrift at the bottom of the Premiership:
London Welsh RFC is extremely disappointed by the Independent Appeal Panel’s decision to uphold the five-point deduction and £15,000 fine against the club, with regard to the charge that it fielded an ineligible player, Tyson Keats, in ten Aviva Premiership matches this season.
However, the club welcomes the Panel’s decision to remove the suspended five-point penalty imposed until the end of the 2013-14 season, and believes that this action justifies its decision to appeal.
The club also believes that this cause of action was necessary to restore the good name of the London Welsh RFC, as once it became clear what had happened, the club made every effort to “remedy the situation” and did not, at any stage, deliberately attempt to deceive the RFU. A point acknowledged by the panel in their findings.
The club maintains, however, that it has ultimately been punished for the completely unnecessary fraudulent actions of one individual, whose actions the panel accepted “could not have been predicted”.
“The club is hugely disappointed by the decision of the Independent Appeal Panel to uphold the five-point deduction for this season,” said London Welsh CEO Tony Copsey.
“We are particularly disappointed for the players, who’ve given everything they can for the club, and ultimately it is they who have been punished for something completely beyond their control.
“However, there are still four games remaining in the season and the focus and efforts of the players, the coaching staff and everyone at London Welsh is now on those remaining matches.”