On Friday I wrote about watching the England v Fiji opener at the World Cup, and how I hoped that the likes of Anthony Watson would inspire youngsters and school players in this country to push themselves on.
It was all set to go, there was plenty to say, the atmosphere was inspiring, the buzz that surrounded the start, the use of so many school pupils in the opening ceremony. Then Japan beat South Africa yesterday afternoon and there was only one story of inspiration that could possibly be told.
It truly was extraordinary stuff. In rugby David so rarely beats Goliath. The low currency of a point relative to sports such as football just makes it that much harder.
That is why Japan’s stunning 34-32 victory over South Africa is an inspiration not just for rugby fans and casual viewers alike, but also for school players.
At school level, perhaps more than at any other, ‘David’s’ are regularly pitted against ‘Goliath’s’. So, often, just facing one of those big names with their superb facilities, advanced training, and seemingly enormous players can leave sides feeling beaten before they begin. This Japan result should serve as an example to such schools that none of these things matter, winning in rugby, as in any sport, is primarily about belief and execution.
Japan did that, and that is the lesson for all. They truly did believe, as the excellent Sam Roberts wrote, going for the try and the win at the end, rather than the penalty and the draw.
The other great piece of inspiration for school players at the start of the Rugby World Cup came in Georgia’s win over Tonga, where Georgia fielded a scrum half who was just eighteen years old. If ever there was an example to those in school rugby that the leap from schools to international rugby is surprisingly small, it was that.
Of course though the attention for the bulk of England’s school players will be the England team, and we hope that like likes of Anthony Watson, Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, and George Ford, all so recently out of school, will begin to provide some real on field inspiration of their own.
Who knows, by 2019 maybe some of the players you play with or against on the school scene will be in Japan at the next World Cup. Between now and then, use the example of Japan; have belief, be brave both physically and in your decisions, and execute.
It was certainly an inspiration, let’s hope for more.
By Angus Savage