Townsend helps inspire Japan’s next generation
Head Coach Gregor Townsend today (Monday) combined his final Rugby World Cup recce in Japan with a coaching session for local school children in Yokohama, where Scotland will face Ireland and the tournament hosts in the opening and closing rounds of Pool A this autumn.
Working alongside the prefecture of Yokohama, the Scottish Government and Scottish Development international, a number of initiatives have been planned to build on Scottish Rugby and Scotland’s long-standing relationship with Japan, raise the profile of the sport in the country and foster greater support for the team.
In 2016 Scottish Rugby signed a strategic alliance agreement with the Japanese City of Nagasaki, part of which was to secure a holding camp for the national team ahead of the tournament.
Scottish Rugby has since committed to a range of co-promotional activities that have seen tours reciprocated by Japanese and Scottish age-grade sides, with 24 players from Scotland’s 15 Schools of Rugby in Nagasaki last summer.
Ahead of today’s training session, Yokohama’s 21 rugby-playing high schools were sent a Scotland replica match ball, with each of the 730 rugby-playing children receiving a Scotland branded baseball cap.
Teachers were invited to nominate a child for the session at the Yokohama Country and Athletic Club with Townsend, the national team’s Performance Services Operations Manager, David Edge, and local coaches.
Townsend was delighted with the enthusiasm shown on the day and by the rugby community as a whole, five months from the national team’s opening fixture against Ireland.
He said: “The Japanese people have shown huge enthusiasm for the sport, this year’s tournament and the Scotland team.
“It’s a wonderful country and has been great to see the people get behind the tournament in such a big way.
“A lot of work has been done in preparation for our campaign from a performance perspective but also to celebrate the longstanding relationship between the two nations through tours, training sessions and commercial partnerships.”
Sports Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: "Ahead of Scotland’s participation in the Rugby World Cup in Japan we are delighted to see Scottish Rugby undertake this programme which further strengthens links between our two countries.
"This activity is contributing to the delivery of the Cooperation Agreement the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs signed with the Mayor of Yokohama when she visited there in July 2018 and we look forward to seeing further such activities in the coming months.”
School of Rugby
The School of Rugby programme supports 15 schools in some of the most deprived areas across Scotland, providing opportunities for disadvantaged young people to develop their physical fitness, cognitive skills and personal qualities.