Mark Cochrane (left) with Toby Robson and Sam McKenzie
TRU’s rugby development officer, Mark Cochrane, was invited by NZ Rugby to deliver All Blacks Clinics in Japan for two weeks during May. Mark, along with two other Kiwis, was based in Kashiwa-no-ha where the All Blacks will stay in the lead up to Rugby World Cup. Enjoy his story of passing on knowledge and skills to Japanese players and coaches.
By Mark Cochrane
Recently I got the opportunity to travel to Japan with New Zealand Rugby to deliver All Blacks Clinics to students, rugby players and coaches. Having previously lived in Japan, I was very excited to go back again. I was joined on the trip by Toby Robson from NZ Rugby and Sam McKenzie from Auckland Rugby. We all met at Auckland airport and departed direct for Narita on Wednesday 15th May.
Upon landing we were promptly met at Narita by a fantastic Japanese welcoming group who love Rugby! These people over the course of the two weeks not only helped us plan sessions, deliver them and translate for us, they also became our friends. They really proved how great Japanese hospitality is and made our stay very enjoyable. Thank you Kaz, Tetsu, Yoshida, Hashi, Yuta and Kota!
For the two weeks in Japan, we stayed in a new city called Kashiwa-no-ha where the All Blacks will be staying both pre the Rugby World Cup and during as part of their arrangement with Kashiwa City. Our first day Kashiwa started with a media event where we met the Kashiwa City Mayor Hiroyasu Akiyama. This was an experience with reporters and camera’s filming our every move! Having cameras everywhere was something we quickly became used to.
Over the two weeks in Kashiwa, as a group we delivered 9 clinics to local elementary schools, most consisting of around 80-100 children per clinic. These were a lot of fun as the children were very excited to learn about Rugby, with it being a minor sport in Japan.
We taught them Rippa Rugby skills focusing on fundamental skills, ripping, catch and pass, and playing the game. These were all well received, even with some clinics being delivered in 33 degrees! We also delivered 2 promotional clinics to the general public; one coaches clinic and 3 teenage clinics.
The biggest learning, I took from the whole experience in relation to Japanese Rugby is their willingness to learn from how we deliver Rugby in New Zealand. Japanese sport, including Rugby is still very much centered around what the coach wants, so teams tend to train for long periods of time and are very well drilled.
The players however are not encouraged to or are not forthcoming in asking questions like kiwi kids are, and therefore find it difficult in unstructured play situations. This was something we encouraged a lot in our delivery and was a real point of difference. This player centered approach, which many of our New Zealand coaches are developing is a real strength of New Zealand Rugby and helps our players to be more in charge of their play and more creative.
Japan is certainly looking to develop this and with time, I believe they will coach more in this style.
We all had an amazing time in Kashiwa, from delivering rugby sessions to over 1200 children and adults, attending a Top League rugby match between NEC and Toshiba, visiting Tokyo, too turning up to an All Blacks Clinic and having 100 Japanese children sing the NZ National anthem in both Maori and English. This was incredible!
I want to thank the Tasman Rugby Union and my family for allowing me to go on this trip and the NZ Rugby Union for inviting me to deliver. And finally, to the Kashiwa City Office staff, Chiba Rugby people and our fantastic translators, arigatō gozaimashita!
I cannot wait to see Japan and the All Blacks play in the RWC in Japan this year!!