KAMAISHI, 23 Sep – Fiji coach John McKee hopes his team’s Pool D match against Uruguay will mark a defining moment in Kamaishi’s recovery from the devastating 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
Both sides will pay their respects to the lives lost during the disaster with a minute’s silence before the teams contest the Rugby World Cup’s first match at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, above, on Wednesday.
"Certainly, there is some significance with the game being at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium,” McKee said. “After the tsunami devastated the area, you understand that rugby is more than just a game. We know that it is very important for the people of this area and for the team to pay our respects to the people of this region.
"With the moment of silence, there are two things there (that are important): the first is to remember the loss of life eight years ago, but it is also important to look to the future and how the area can regrow. We can see already that there is a lot of development in the area.
"By having games like this in the region, rugby contributes to taking the prefecture forward."
In May, pictured, members of the squad met Toshio Hamato, director of Kamaishi Seawaves, when the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour went to Fiji.
The Fijians' training base is in Miyako, about 45 minutes north of Kamaishi, where the tragic event is marked by a blue line indicating the height of the tsunami flood waters.
They know the area well. In July, hosts Japan defeated Fiji at the Memorial Stadium during the Pacific Nations Cup.
McKee’s men have also played Uruguay within the past year, running in 10 tries in a 68-7 victory in England last November.
“We know that they are a much-improved side from the team that we played then,” McKee said. “They have been together for a while now and their World Cup preparation will have been focused on this match.
“We are coming off a short turnaround (after losing to Australia on Saturday) and it’s their first game, so they will have been targeting us. For our players, it has been important to focus on this game.
"The travel down here (Myako) went smoothly, and we did play in Kamaishi in the Pacific Nations Cup, so the boys have settled in very quickly.”