Rugby World Cup Recap with Ben Janssen, Ian Glatts, and Sean Beuche
Schuylkill River Rugby had strong representation at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan with several different groups traveling throughout the country. We caught up with three of them to get their take on the event.
1. What cities did you visit and what was the atmosphere like in Japan for the Rugby World Cup?
Ben Janssen: Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe. The atmosphere was pretty incredible, I have never been to a sporting event that brings together so many different cultures and although there was a fair share of jabs at each others’ teams the overall takeaway was that rugby really brings people together. Bars in Japan are very different than America, mainly they are tiny so most of the time you stood in the street and peered into a bar to watch the game surrounded by people from all over the world who love rugby. I had no idea how big rugby is in Japan but the culture has fully embraced it and I saw plenty of locals wearing jerseys from all of the top countries, and being fans of the game, in addition to the Japanese national team.
Ian Glatts: We flew into Tokyo on the first day of the Rugby World Cup and from there travelled to Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Kobe, Shizouka, and back to Tokyo. We were constantly using the bullet train to get from city to city, which saved us a lot of travel time. In places like Tokyo and Osaka, the world cup was less apparent just because of the sheer size of those cities, but during game day there was no avoiding it. The stadiums were packed with people from all over the world.
One of my favorite memories was from after the France-Argentina game in Tokyo. We left the stadium and made our way to a hole-in-the-wall bar down the street to watch the South Africa-New Zealand game. Before you knew it, the bar was overrun with rugby fans from France, Argentina, Australia, UK, New Zealand, and of course Japan. By the end of the game, half of the patrons were watching from the street! In total, we saw three world cup games abroad: France vs Argentina, USA vs England, and Japan vs. Ireland. 12 days total spent in 7 different hostels. We were constantly on the run.
Sean Beuche: We started in Tokyo and visited Shinjuku and Yokohama where we saw New Zealand vs South Africa and Ireland vs Scotland. We then went to Kyoto, Osaka, and then Kobe where we saw USA vs England. Lastly we visited Hamamatsu and Shizuaka for Ireland vs. Japan.
2. We’ve heard stories of the Japanese people being incredibly accommodating to visitors and doing a great job of hosting this event. Can you tell us about that?
Ben Janssen: The Japanese were some of the nicest people I have met in my travels, they seemed genuinely happy to have tourists in their country and were extremely accommodating. That being said, they had no idea how to properly supply a large scale sporting event. Multiple bars I went to ran out of beer, the stadium lines were outrageous (sometimes over an hour long), and they had very few bathrooms or concession stands in the stadium. I have serious concerns for the 2020 Olympics when it comes to serving large crowds at sporting events. I assume the Japanese culture views sports in a subdued manner compared to other nations around the world and have some improvements to make to the stadiums in preparation for the large crowds of 2020.
Ian Glatts: The passion of the home crowd was a sight to behold. Every game had a mixed bag of tourists but without fail, Japanese fans came out in droves to support the world cup. Even when their team was not playing, you could feel the rugby love from the host country. Well done Japan.
Sean Beuche: The Japanese are a very quiet and respectful people that were incredibly gracious in the face of 19 other, often-rowdier, and less-gracious people descending upon their homeland to party and support their countries. I was blown away with how pleasant and agreeable the Japanese people were across the country even when the same respect or grace wasn’t returned.
Watching the Japanese upset the Irish in the countryside of Shizuoka was an unforgettable experience that exemplified good-sportsmanship and national pride.
3. Having seen this event in a non-traditional rugby country like Japan, do you think the USA is ready to host this event?
Ben Janssen: The US is much more equipped to handle the actual sporting event than Japan is due to our stadiums but the logistics outside the actual games would be more difficult. All the transit I was on in Japan reviewed instructions in Japanese then English to accommodate tourism and they welcomed outsiders and made us feel as comfortable as possible. By contrast, we are not very accommodating to tourism here. Additionally there was a large Japanese presence at the stadium, these people genuinely wanted to watch rugby. I am not sure the fan base is large enough in the US to host the event of this magnitude.
Ian Glatts: Next question.
Sean Beuche: hell yeah.
4. Which players and teams stuck out in terms of entertainment value?
Ben Janssen: Japan was exciting because they still have the underdog narrative even though they have beat the best teams in the world. It was a pleasure to see the joy their fans got from watching them. The USA continues to disappoint. It appears our coaching staff does not know how to capitalize on the strength of our players and instead tries to mold them into a style that pulls them out of their element.
Ian Glatts: The first game between France and Argentina was a real nail biter – France ended up beating the Pumas off of a drop goal in the final minutes of play. A tactical match from two well-coached teams set the tone for an exciting world cup. Although it was an honor to see USA play England, the match was nothing to write home about. The highlight from that match goes to Teti for making a row of English supporters feel extremely uncomfortable for mocking our national anthem. Needless to say, he did not make it until the end of the game.
Sean Beuche: New Zealand travels as strongly as any other nation I’ve seen, pound for pound. Ireland is always good craic, and USA is the best country in the world
5. What was your favorite moment of the trip?
Ben Janssen: Seeing the country was Amazing, Japan is a beautiful nation with lots of history. I enjoyed seeing the difference between Tokyo and the smaller cities, as well as all of the temples and castles. My favorite moment was dressing up as Pikachu and driving go-carts around Tokyo, the locals loved seeing our group and we got to see the ins and outs of the city at street level.
Ian Glatts: Japan beating Ireland. The game was played in a remote town called Shizuoka 3 hours outside of Tokyo. Imagine if the Linc was situated out in Lancaster and the broad street line was half as efficient- that’s pretty much what our commute was like. Japan played a near perfect game defensively and the pace was full tilt the entire eighty minutes. By the end of it, even an Irish fan switched his green jersey for a Brave Blossoms jersey (by the way, almost impossible to find one of those, they were selling them like hot cakes). Walking out of the stadium, we must have hi-fived a thousand Japanese fans and yelled Nippon the whole way home. Some of us even hopped on the wrong train out of sheer excitement. I haven’t seen that kind of defense since Brian Dawkins wore midnight green. What an incredible game.
Sean Beuche: When Ireland was upset by japan and the Japanese players bowed to the crowd.
6. Anything else you’d like to add?
Ben Janssen: If you are over 6ft you are going to hit your head….a lot. The food was outstanding but be prepared to hit a fast food spot or convenience store within an hour because the Japanese are very small and their food portions match their stature.
Ian Glatts: Go to Osaka, don’t eat traditional sushi in Kyoto, and go to Osaka. NII-PON!!!!!
Sean Beuche: You can buy beer at every vending machine kiosk and corner store and drink on the street, but there is no trash or litter to be found anywhere and no public trash cans