Japan given warm welcome to RWC

(Rugby News Service) Thursday 1 September 2011
Japan given warm welcome to RWC
Excited children welcome Japan's RWC players in Auckland on Thursday

AUCKLAND, 1 Sept. - Japan's players were given their official Rugby World Cup 2011 caps and a warm reception at the tournament's first welcome ceremony on Thursday as fans flocked to Aotea Square.

The Brave Blossoms' coach John Kirwan, a former All Black, said he was thrilled to be with the Pacific Nations Cup holders in his home country, and hoped to show the world the strides his team have made since the last World Cup.

In 2007, Japan lost to Australia, Fiji and Wales before drawing with Canada for their first points since beating Zimbabwe in 1991, which remains their only victory at rugby's international showpiece.

"For all our fans, it's a great honour; we see New Zealand as the home of rugby so we're looking forward to showing New Zealanders how we play rugby in Japan," said Kirwan, whose charges will open their Pool A campaign against France on 10 September at Auckland's North Harbour Stadium.

"It's important that we play our style of rugby, which we believe is exciting," added Kirwan. "I'm really proud and honoured to be back home with the Japanese team. We just want to get out on the field and play with courage and commitment."

Chairman of the International Rugby Board Bernard Lapasset urged fans worldwide to get into the RWC spirit.

"Today represents the beginning of a journey that most of you have dreamed about since starting rugby," Lapasset told the players. "You will also get to experience all that is great about New Zealand, its treasures, traditions and hospitality.

"On behalf of the International Rugby Board and Rugby World Cup, I would like to wish you a very enjoyable and successful Rugby World Cup 2011."

RNS sk/eg/gs/mr