The advancements made in Japanese rugby in recent years were recognized Wednesday with Robbie Deans and his Panasonic Wild Knights side helping to launch the Brisbane Global Tens at the Australian Embassy in Tokyo.
Set for Feb. 11-12, 2017, at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium, the sporting bonanza will bring together more than 300 of rugby’s biggest stars in a two-day tournament that sees 28 games played and 1.6 million Australian dollars (¥125 million) up for grabs in prize money.
Australia and New Zealand’s 10 Super Rugby sides and four elite invitational teams — Panasonic, South Africa’s Blue Bulls, Samoa and French side Toulon, the current club of Japanese rugby superstar Ayumu Goromaru — will take part in the inaugural edition with organizers saying the tournament will only get bigger and better over the years.
“I think we saw as recently as last year with the World Cup, the growth of rugby in Japan and for the first time the rest of the world recognized what is produced here,” said Panasonic coach Deans.
“For Japan to beat South Africa and then follow it up with a win over New Zealand at the Olympics is evidence of what is happening here in Japan.”
Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk dubbed the weekend “two days of rugby heaven” and said “with Japan’s key role as host of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, there has never been a better time for Japanese rugby to highlight its growing international competitiveness by joining the Brisbane Global Tens next year in Australia.”
With many observers believing the gap between 15s and Sevens is getting ever bigger, Tens, a popular version of the game at amateur level across Asia, fills the void.
Combining the space and speed of Sevens with the trademark physicality, athleticism and tactical element of traditional 15-a-side, Tens tournaments also retain a carnival atmosphere off the field.
“The great thing about Tens is that it will clearly be rugby. Rugby union as a code caters for all shapes and sizes and you will see that in Tens,” Deans said. “You will see a set piece that is a genuine and relevant contest but you will also see more space, more speed, more skill and the one thing you can be sure of, the lungs will be burning.
“From a coaching perspective there is a lot of scope for creativity and that is something the playing group and coaching staff will enjoy.”
One player who is looking forward to the experience is Panasonic flyhalf Berrick Barnes, a two-time Top League MVP and Queensland native.
“It’s a first for me and a first for many of the players and that’s not just here in Japan but players throughout the world,” he said.
“I’m genuinely excited. I’ve never experienced being in the same hotel as some of these players let alone playing against them. And for fans to have access to all these players, it’s absolutely fantastic.”
Barnes said the speed with which Panasonic likes to play would hold the Wild Knights in good stead at the tournament “and hopefully we can run some of the bigger teams off their legs.”
The Hong Kong Sevens has become the benchmark by which that version of the game has been judged, and the Brisbane Global Tens is hoping it will be seen in a similar light — both on and off the field.
“The quality of clubs, players and venue, the participation and prize money, broadcast reach and audience size is unprecedented,” said tournament organizer David Higgins.