Ayumu Goramaru survived one Japanese earthquake four weeks before his international debut ten years ago and another four days afterwards. It taught him all about seismic shifts and the Richter Scale which measured the first at 6.6, the second at 5.8.
The one registered in Sussex-by-the-sea early on Saturday evening will be rocking around the world for weeks on end. The World Cup had been crying out for its Buster Douglas moment from day one almost 30 years ago and now, glory be, it has delivered a giant-killing of truly biblical proportion.
How wonderful that the boy who grew up in Fukuoka on an island dominated by Japan’s largest active volcano, Mount Aso, should have played the staggering lead role in rearranging the tectonic plates of the game on the shores of the English channel.
Goramaru, with his try and seven goals from full-back, has done more than anyone to reduce the second mightiest Goliath on the rugby planet to rubble and leave the rest quaking in their boots. Nobody will be feeling the tremors more acutely this morning than Scotland, next up for Japan in Gloucester on Wednesday.
Make no mistake about it, theirs is the greatest rugby upset of all time. It makes the last one, on a Sunday lunchtime in Cardiff when the faithful came out of chapel to learn that Wales had been rumbled by the western bit of Samoa, seem almost ho-hum by comparison.
Japan, remember, had won once in seven World Cups before Saturday - against Zimbabwe in 1991 - since when they had drawn one and lost 17 of 18 matches over 24 years. The Springboks had won the tournament twice and failed only once to reach the last four.
Unlike those fairytale 100/1 winners of the Grand National, Tipperary Tim, in 1928 and Foinavon, in 1967, this was no fluke. Yet the odds against Japan were greater than the 42-1 against the late Buster Douglas when he mashed the unbeaten and supposedly unbeatable Mike Tyson for the world heavyweight title in Tokyo a quarter of a century ago.
If their nickname has always sounded more than a touch patronising, the Brave Blossoms were never braver than when skipper Michael Leitch twice ignored the soft option of close-range penalties to go for broke. He wanted more than a draw which would have been sensational in itself.
Leitch, a New Zealander of Fijian parents who says he speaks better Japanese than English, got his reward. The whole world outside South Africa, and perhaps many inside the country protesting that the Springboks are still too white, jumped for joy when another New Zealander, substitute wing Karne Hesketh, needed one touch of the ball to make history like it had never been made before.
This was arguably the sporting shock to beat them all - bigger than the American amateurs beating England at the 1950 soccer World Cup, more surprising than the 1973 FA Cup final (Leeds 0, Sunderland 1) and the 1969 League Cup final when Third Division Swindon gave Arsenal the run-around, more dumfounding than the brash Cassius Clay beating the big, bad bear Sonny Liston in 1964.
What Japan achieved was so far off the scale that there is now some doubt whether they can fix Herr Richter’s invention in time for Wednesday…
Of all the international captains of the professional era, none has been more shabbily treated than England’s Steve Borthwick.
His World Cup experiences had been unrelentingly miserable — omitted from the victorious 2003 campaign, given a walk-on part during the English humiliation by South Africa in 2007 and sacked as captain by Martin Johnson before the gross misadventure in New Zealand four years ago.
When he retired last year as captain of Saracens, nobody had lasted longer in the harsh climate of the English Premiership (16 years), nor played more matches (265).
Along the way he built a reputation as the game’s supreme professional, according to some an inch above the workaholic Jonny Wilkinson.
As the former Wallaby hooker Michael Foley said of Borthwick during the Australian’s time coaching Bath: ‘’We even reckon he counts the Rice Krispies on his plate to make sure he gets exactly the right number of calories.’’
Johnson may have done Borthwick the unwitting favour of sparing him from being tainted by England’s disgrace four years ago but you cannot keep a good man down.
As the forwards’ coach of Japan, the Cumbrian who studied American politics at university deserves to take a bow.
He won’t because that’s not his style but rugby men, and women, whatever their colour, creed or nationality, will rejoice at his achievement under the canny supervision of the inimitable Japanese-Australian, Eddie Jones.
In the feverish debate over the TMO epidemic, one question appears to have been missed. Why are the organisers allowing action replays of a try to be shown on the giant stadium screens before the conversion can be taken?
That very scenario at Twickenham on Friday night made a global mockery of the time-honoured principle that ‘the referee is always right.’ The try, as awarded to Fiji’s jack-in-a-box scrum-half Niko Matawaluby Jaco Peyper of South Africa, turned out to be nothing of the kind because someone somewhere had pressed a button and shown what really happened.
Peyper’s consequent referral to the TMO forced the Fijians to hold fire on their attempt to turn five points into seven. Why it took the video ref, Shaun Veldsman, so long to confirm what was blindingly obvious after one look has been debated ad nauseum.
The real issue leaves those running the tournament needing to delay try-scoring replays until after the conversion. The consequence is to undermine the authority of every referee and force them to put a still heavier reliance on the technology for fear of making a mistake.
And that will only increase the time-wasting misery by prolonging the agony for the spectator beyond the kind of 53-minute half we endured at Twickenham. There can never have been a more unfortunate reminder that he who pays the Peyper, in this case World Rugby, calls the tune. For him, TMO (Television Match Official) sounds more like Turn Me Over.
Matt Dawson has always been an acquired taste, as the 2001 Lions discovered when he made an ass of himself by slagging off Graham Henry’s coaching team on the morning of the team’s famous win in Brisbane.
Now he’s done it again with a naff commercial taking the mickey out of The Haka and supposedly upsetting Maori elders.
The English scrum-half once admitted that not so long ago his parents ‘felt like giving him a good clip round the ear.’
And that says it all…
South African referee Craig Joubert gave 36 penalties during the France-Italy match on Saturday night, an average of one every 2 minutes 22 seconds.
At no stage did he feel the need to use the yellow card, a sanction designed, above all, to punish serial technical offenders. In failing to do so, Joubert did the game a disservice.
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