Japanese girls soak up rugby culture
Burnside High School could be helping to secure an Olympic medal for Japan.
They are running a programme designed at bringing international students - girls from Japan at this stage - to the school to teach them the skills and culture of rugby.
Mark Ealey has run a similar programme at St Bede's College for a number of years which attracts internationals from all over the globe. Many of those students return and feature prominently in under-age, then senior, national teams.
Burnside have now jumped on board too with the development of the Burnside High School sports leadership rugby programme.
The two schools work together and there are currently four young Japanese rugby enthusiasts playing in the schools' first XV.
Ayane Hirata, Reeko Tanaka, Misaki Naka and Wasana Fukushima do a three-course school programme combined with 12 hours of rugby a week, which includes skills sessions with the St Bede's boys.
The addition of sevens to the Olympic programme from 2016 means women's rugby is set to come in for an increase in exposure and funding in the coming years and the four Japanese girls at Burnside all hope to feature in the Japanese national programme ahead of the Rio Games.
The Burnside programme works closely with the Japanese Rugby Football Union (JRFU) and the Canterbury Rugby Football Union and website Rugbygirl - and the JRFU offers a month's scholarship to Burnside for a Japanese player.
Mifuyu Koide was that player this season, arriving after captaining the national Japanese under-19 sevens side that won at the Hong Kong Sevens.
And while the young Japanese girls receive specific rugby training while in Christchurch, including expert coaching, it's the culture they love, said Burnside's international student manager Rhonda Brodie.
"They've been to four Crusaders' games, the All Blacks versus Ireland test, they're being immersed in rugby culture and they love it," she said.
"They bring a huge amount of enthusiasm to our team," added programme co-ordinator John Seque.
Technically very sound when they arrive in New Zealand from years of skills training anyway, Seque said playing rugby in New Zealand was very different and the Japanese girls were learning plenty about actually playing the game which they didn't do as much of at home. "And our girls learn a lot too," Seque said.
The other bonus for Burnside is the school needs to continue to put resources into the girls' game to ensure they have a team and a programme appealing to up and coming Japanese rugby players.
Long term, Burnside are exploring the idea of opening their programme up to other sports.
This year's crop of Japanese recruits have helped the Burnside first XV to today's semifinal of the girls' first XV competition, where they will play Papanui, while Christchurch Girls' High will play Avonside Girls' High in the other semifinal.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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