The Return of the Minnows

Japanese coach John Kirwan takes his star player Tomoki Yoshida through his paces in training last week.

The first weekend of the World Cup 2011 is over and it was an absolute scorcher! This is going to be a great World Cup if the opening matches are anything to go by.  There was nail-baiting tension, isolated incidents of brawling and epic victories – and we’re just talking about John Smit’s attempts to get to the food buffet ahead of Dr Jannie.

But most pleasing of all was the fact that this weekend the smaller rugby nations stood toe-to-toe with the traditional rugby powerhouses and looked all the better for it.  Two stand out minnow performances this weekend were Romania almost pulling off an upset against Scotland and Italy holding Australia 6-6 at half time.

It’s a far cry from earlier tournaments when teams like Japan and Uruguay used to get absolutely annihilated and it makes for a far better tournament.  Historically we’ve had to put up with a snooze-fest before the real contest begins with the quarters, but this World Cup looks like it is offering a lot for fans in the early stages.

Seeing the passion in the faces of the Americans before kickoff was something special – if you were a neutral and the American efforts didn’t tug on your heartstrings there is something wrong with you.  Not to be forgotten in the display of the minnows  a new and improved Japanese team set the North Harbour crowd on fire with some electric backplay.

Big Daddy Rugby was fortunate enough to gain some exclusive footage of the Japanese rugby team in training before the World Cup showpiece:


So a lot will be said about special players and outrageous reffing calls but for me, the tip of the hat goes to the the minnows’ coaches who deserve credit for turning the smaller teams into giants for a few short moments – moments that will live on for years in the pubs of their respective countries.

Smokey the Bowler

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