Parents' pride as sons follow their World Cup dreams

Fathers - and mothers - of players at Rugby World Cup 2019 who also represented their countries are among the most passionate fans in Japan.

OITA, 4 Oct - Rugby fans are a passionate bunch but at this World Cup there is a special group of spectators who are bursting with more pride – and nervousness – than most. They are the former players whose sons are on the pitch, and they are here in force.

As France finally overcame a stubborn USA side in Fukuoka on Wednesday, Alain Medard was anxiously cheering on his son, full-back Maxime, from the stands – pictured above wearing a replica shirt with his boy's name emblazoned on the back.

"I'm so happy to be here," said Alain, who played alongside Maxime's uncle Francis in the French first division in the 1980s for Blagnac, the club where Maxime started his career.

"With Maxime's selection, I couldn't imagine missing this event. I'm so proud. I went to New Zealand in 2011 (when France lost to the hosts in the final). I hope, like that time, to stay until the very end."

Also present at the Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium, as France made it two wins from two, was Emile Ntamack, a two-time World Cup veteran for Les Bleus, supporting his son Romain, the fly-half.

Afterwards Romain's club Toulouse, who Emile also played for, tweeted these pictures of the proud father with his son:

Two of Italy's players also have the support of parents who played at the top level. Back-row Jake Polledri's father, Bristol stalwart Peter, has been following his son in Japan.

Jake, who pays for Gloucester in the English Premiership, said: "He was out here with my mum and brothers for the first two matches and then went home but he had such a great time that he booked up straight away to come back out for the South Africa match."

Polledri's team-mate, fly-half Tommaso Allan, is being cheered on by his mother Paola Berlato, who was the first captain of Italy's women's team. 

In 2013, Tommaso joined his mother at an Italian Rugby Federation ceremony where caps were presented to all the players who have represented the Italy women's team.

Tommaso said: "Both my mum and dad (William Allan, brother of former Scotland and South Africa hooker John Allan) helped me hugely. Dad was my coach but Mum would always give me pointers too. They drove us everywhere no matter how far. The whole family would go. It has been wonderful having them here to support me."

Among the other proud fathers in Japan is Uruguay's Diego Ormaechea, who saw his sons Agustin and Juan Diego play in the win over Fiji in Kamaishi – their nation's most prestigious World Cup victory. Diego was involved in Uruguay's two other RWC wins, as a player in their 1999 triumph over Spain and as coach against Georgia four years later.

He said: "I already had the pride of seeing my son Agustin at the 2015 World Cup in England, and to see him and Juan Diego together on this list for 2019 was incredible.

"It is indescribable as a father that two of your children represent the country. For me and my wife to be here to enjoy the moment - it's very difficult to describe."

There is one father in Japan who is supporting sons who play for different teams: Vili Alaalatoa, a quarter-finalist at the 1991 World Cup with Samoa, is dad to Mike, who plays for Samoa, and Australia prop Allan.

Vili will be in Toyota for Samoa's match against Japan on Saturday, something Mike said will be "pretty special".

"A couple of months after I was born he was going to the '91 World Cup, so it's part of my birth history," Mike said. "He was really proud and emotional when he found out that I'd been selected, and it's obviously a very proud moment for me to have the chance to wear the same emblem that he's worn before."

A Scottish rugby dynasty will also reunite in Japan. Fly-half Adam Hastings's father Gavin – Scotland's record RWC points scorer – is due to arrive next week for the match with Russia on Wednesday, while his brother Scott (Adam's uncle), who won 65 caps, is here as a TV commentator.

Adam won his 15th cap when he came on against Samoa on Monday, making him and Gavin the first father-son combination to represent Scotland at a World Cup.

Scott, 54, said: "I was proud when he came on, it was a lovely moment. We take tremendous pride in it. There's a little bit of ribbing that goes on in our Hastings brothers' WhatsApp group about Adam. But he takes it in his stride."

RNS sg/gl/ji/pl/bp/pp