Sumo snow-clearing as weather hits rugby in Japan

Building snowmen took preference to rugby training for RBR in Japan

While England struggles once more to adapt to a couple of millimetres of sporadic snow, winter has well and truly hit Tokyo this week with our training pitch submerged after a couple of hours of relentless snow fall.

Some of the players and staff took advantage in traditional style with the obligatory snow fights and snowman-building session.

Incredibly, from an English perspective, our Asian-passport holder Jason Coveney (who hails from Australia but represents Philippines internationally) had never seen snow before.

Needless to say, he was on the losing end to more experienced campaigners in the snow fight stakes and beat a hasty retreat to the sanctuary of the warm changing rooms.

Thankfully we lost only one session to the extreme conditions as our groundsman did a miraculous job of clearing the pitch for training the next day. A solid five-hour session on his snow plough made him the MVP of the day, as we were desperate to hit the pitch in preparation for our upcoming Wild Card game against Kintetsu Liners in the All Japan Cup this weekend.

Indeed it was all hands to the deck as across Tokyo as some sumo wrestlers were spotted helping clear the snow Shibuya.

Sumo clearing the snow in Tokyo

The end of season format here becomes fairly convoluted as the final league standings have been decided and the top four clubs will now engage in the play-offs to decide the league winner, while the rest of the teams enter the All Japan Cup over the next two weekends.

Traditional heavyweights Suntory, Toshiba, Kobe and Panasonic will do battle in the play-offs to be crowned Top League Champions. With Suntory finishing a massive 13 points clear of second placed Toshiba and unbeaten in the regular season, they are clear favourites to retain their title.

Following the completion of the Top League semi-finals and final - those four teams will then join the All Japan Cup. To draw a comparison, this is much like the Premier League football teams in England joining the FA Cup in the third round.

The intriguing aspect of the All Japan Cup is that the top university teams in the country also get the opportunity to compete against the top professional sides.

Luckily we generally play in very impressive stadiums here so it is rare for any games to be cancelled, even as we experience the most extreme conditions at this critical stage of the season.

This makes a change from controversial cancellations of games in the Aviva Premiership that reached a pinnacle in my time at Wasps with the infamous 'Pizza Gate' incident. After a failed pitch inspection, our players were spotted eating pizza on the team bus, fully showered and ready to hit the road, ten minutes before kick off. Meanwhile, Sale supporters were still flooding through the turnstiles hoping to see a traditional mid-winter mud bath encounter.

The pizza rumours were all exaggerated, though - I clearly remember seeing more players with fish and chips! (No offence to the paying Sale and Wasps faithful - the pitch was considered unsafe for play).

My favourite venue this year was the Kobe Wing Stadium, a compact 42,000 seater with a retractable roof. Built for the 2002 football World Cup, it hosted a 2-0 victory for Brazil over Belgium in the group stages.

We enter each weekend now knowing that a win will extend our run in the knock-out All Japan Cup, with the final scheduled for February 23.

A loss, however, and our season is over. We travel away to Kintetsu in Osaka on Sunday as underdogs but well prepared thanks to the tireless efforts of our inspirational groundsman!

Kobe Wing stadium used for the rugby in Japan

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Richard Wilson said...

19 January 2013 20:26,

Sounds and looks like a great experience in Japan Rob. Hope the remaining season goes well. :)

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