The Cherry Blossoms are one of the teams that play with heart but sadly do not always have the result to show for it at the end of a match. Despite some imports originally from New Zealand and Australia featuring in the squad, overall, the team seem to struggle against bigger more physical sides. But as a team, they never give up, like tenacious terriers, they have upset a few teams over the years including South Africa Ireland and Scotland. 

New Zealand born coach, Jamie Joseph, played for both NZ and Japan at National Level – and has instilled a “can do” attitude into this team. He sadly is stepping down as head coach after the tournament, so will be hoping to go out on a high note of progressing beyond the pool matches. 

On 9th October, the day after their last pool match against Argentina, is National Sports Day in Japan – so they will be taking some inspiration from this!

Captain: Kazuki Himeno

Player to Watch: Regretfully, I know very little about the Blossoms, but Michael Leith is always a lynchpin in their game plan.

For more information about the Japanese Rugby Squad – www.jrfu.org/jrfu/index.php

For full details follow: www.rugbyworldcup.com/

What to Eat & Drink whilst watching the Cherry Blossoms

Food: The perception of Japanese cooking being delicate and light with a great reliance on super fresh seafood and fish may not seem the Go-To comfort food on match day, but it makes a light alternative to all the many BBQs throughout the World Cup team cuisines. Sushi is often seen as an exclusive sort of food but it’s the original street food in Japan.  If you are feeling creative, Sushi is remarkably easy to make at home once you have a few basics. Do visit – www.japancentre.com who have a good delivery service across a wide range of Japanese food & drink.  For both Sushi and Sashimi, the freshness of the fish is vital, so perhaps send your guests on a fishing trip before the match! 

Several of my favourite Japanese dishes such as Ramen and Soba noodles involve too much hot stock splashing around to make them good match food – but Yakitori could have been designed especially. Skewers of chargrilled chicken, which are a favourite snack at a bar on the way home from work in Tokyo, with Shio (salt) or Tare (sweet soy sauce) as dips would be the ideal pairing with a glass of Japanese beer.

Beer: Several big names dominate the Japanese market including Kirin and Asahi, but with a good variety of styles. Asahi is a dry crisp style but there is also the Asahi Kuronama, more like a dark ale.  Try this supplier for a range of beers  www.mountfuji.co.uk

Wine: The national drink is Sake, fermented rice wine, which is just as complex as wine from grapes that we are used to in Europe and just as revered.

Many people in the UK look out for the award winning bottles with those unmistakable medal stickers of the International Wine Challenge, but not many know that they also run a Sake Challenge as well.  www.internationalwinechallenge.com

For a great range including premium Sakes and even Sparkling sake, do visit – www.londonsake.com 

Whisky: Whisky is big business in Japan and in the Whisky Bible 2015, a Japanese single malt took the number one spot (and there were no Scottish Whisky in the top 5!).

Yamazaki is a recognisable brand in the UK as it’s been imported for over 30 years – stocked occasionally by www.waitrose.com  

Or visit this website for a wider range of Japanese Malts. www.masterofmalt.com – who list the Yamazaki 12-Year-old which was bottled to celebrate the House of Suntory’s 100th anniversary (they are the oldest malt whisky distillery in Japan). But the Master of Malt also has a great taster set of 5 Japanese whiskies in small bottles – so you can experiment with styles!

Tea: The Japanese tea ceremony is well documented, so I will merely mention here that as an alternative for any drivers, do seek out some Matcha Green Tea – very calming in times of match stress.