Arita earns plaudits for try scoring display

(IRB.COM) Wednesday 10 June 2009
By Rich Freeman
From Tokyo
Arita earns plaudits for try scoring display
Ryuhei Arita scores the second of his three tries against Samoa - Photo: Hiroyuki Nagaoka (RJP)

Waseda University is known throughout Japan for its ability to produce leaders.

The current Japan Rugby Football Union President Yoshiro Mori is one of six post-war prime ministers produced by the school, which has also seen countless corporate leaders also pass through its doors.

On Tuesday, Ryuhei Arita showed off his leadership abilities on the rugby field at the IRB TOSHIBA Junior World Championship 2009.

The 20-year-old, currently in his third year at the school, scored three second-half tries that almost enabled Japan to record a famous victory over Samoa.

Sadly for the Junior World Championship record crowd of 10,693 at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Japan just came up short losing 29-20.

But their gutsy performance was applauded long after the final whistle with Arita coming in for particular praise.

Arita: Leading by example

"Arita played really well," said Simon Litster, a former Hong Kong representative in both 15s and Sevens. "He was head and shoulders above the rest of the Japan players and as a captain really led by example."

Japan head coach Masahiro Kunda was also impressed by his young captain: “If I should mention any remarkable players in this tournament, captain Arita would be the first one to pick.”

All three of Arita’s tries came from rolling mauls that must have had the crowd thinking they had a slight case of déjà vu.

For three straight years, starting in the 2004/05 season, Kunda led Toshiba Brave Lupus to three straight Top League titles, with the driving maul the number one weapon in their arsenal.

Arita, however, was doing his best to play down his own performance.

“I cannot comment on my performance today, because the only achievement is to win this game,” he said. “So even though I might have played well, that means nothing.”

Japanese mauls 'very effective'

While happy with the five points, the Samoan camp know they were lucky to come away with the win, particularly the way Japan played in the second half when they outscored their opponents by three tries to one.

"We were able to win, but Japan played much better than us," said Samoa coach Vincent Meleisea. “We expected them to be very effective and efficient in the mauls, and so did the big crowd.”

With the 2010 tournament in Argentina featuring 12, not 16, teams, Arita and Kunda must now work out a way to beat Scotland on Saturday so next year’s Baby Blossoms remain in the top flight.

“We need to identify our own strength and weaknesses from this game and also the strength and weaknesses of the Scots,” Kunda said.