Japan Rugby Football Union sent the National Development Squad (NDS) consisting of candidates for Japan’s national team, on a tour of New Zealand for three practice games in April.
Joining the tour from the Yamaha rugby team were 5 players - Koki Yamamoto, Takeshi Hino, Yuya Odo, Uwe Helu, Kanta Shikao – and Takanobu Horikawa, who led the NDS as its head coach.
Coach Horikawa’s game strategy during this tour was to always be aggressive on offence and score before their opponents. With this strategy at work, the NDS, which played as Japan A, won their first game versus the Highlanders A in Otago. In the second match against the Blues A, all 5 Yamaha players were in the lineup. The Yamaha players greatly contributed to the victory, exemplified by Hino and Odo who each made a successful try. In the last union of the tour versus Hurricane Development, Japan A lost to the home team with a final score of 27-36 despite taking the lead in the first half. And yet, Japan A concluded the 19-day tour with a respectable result of 2wins and 1 loss.
Kanta Shikao, a rookie who joined the Yamaha Jubilo just this April, was in the starting lineup for each of the 3 games during this tour, raising expectations that he would become a regular starting member of the Yamaha team even in his rookie year.
Comments by head coach Takanobu Horikawa
“Winning 2 games during this New Zealand tour gave our players confidence and provided evidence of the players’ growth. With the Rugby World Cup 2019 on the horizon, I sincerely hope that many of the NDS members make it to the Japan national team. I would like to thank everyone involved in organizing the tour for the great opportunity that they gave to this team.”