After 10-year wait, hosts Japan ready to face Russia in World Cup opener

Japan rugby team head coach Jamie Joseph. (Reuters)
Updated 19 September 2019

After 10-year wait, hosts Japan ready to face Russia in World Cup opener

TOKYO: With the weight of an expectant nation on their shoulders and a governing body desperate for the hosts to succeed in the first Rugby World Cup in Asia, Japan head into the tournament opener on Friday under arguably more pressure than any other team.

Fortunately, head coach Jamie Joseph probably could not have picked a better matchup to begin their campaign as they prepare to face Russia, ranked 20th in the world and making only their second World Cup finals appearance, at Tokyo Stadium.

A big win for the home side is likely to be welcomed by World Rugby, who took a major risk in awarding the tournament to Japan 10 years ago, taking the World Cup out of the sport’s traditional heartlands for the first time.

They will be looking for a good early showing from Japan to build further excitement in the host country, who are already optimistic following the Pacific Nations Cup (PNC) triumph last month.

Japan now see themselves as too good for many of the other Tier Two nations and are looking to disrupt the established world order by reaching the quarter-finals for the first time.

Although the results against their other Pool A opponents Ireland, Scotland and Samoa will likely define Japan’s World Cup campaign, a big opening win in front of an expected record television audience will build belief that history can be made.

Joseph has been quick to dismiss the favorites tag ahead of Friday’s game, pointing out that Japan only managed to sneak a 32-27 win when they faced Russia in November.

“I never consider us to be the favorites, simply because … we have never been the favorites,” Joseph said on Wednesday.

“We have got a lot of respect for Russia and we were very lucky to win the last time we played them.

“I will say that the players are really excited, they have been waiting a long time, like everybody has in Japan, for the day to arrive.”

Japan were naive in a 41-7 loss to South Africa in their last warmup match, struggling to adapt to the Springboks’ suffocating defensive gameplan and leaving Joseph looking tactically outclassed.

Despite admitting that match was a wake-up call for his players, against Russia he is likely to go back to the dynamic, attacking rugby that produced 14 tries and 109 points in three matches during the PNC.

For their part, Russia will be determined not to act as merely the sacrificial lamb to Japan’s slaughter as they aim to get their first ever World Cup win.

They lost all four matches at the 2011 tournament during their only previous appearance at the finals and are only in Japan after Romania and Spain were disqualified from European qualification for fielding ineligible players. Russia, under the tutelage of Welshman Lyn Jones, lost their last warm-up match 85-15 to Italy.


Saudi female racing driver to make history by becoming first to compete in the Kingdom

Updated 12 November 2019

Saudi female racing driver to make history by becoming first to compete in the Kingdom

  • Reema made her competitive racing debut in October last year 3
  • Competed in the TRD 86 Cup at Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: Reema Juffali will create history later this month at the Diriyah Circuit as the first Saudi Arabian woman to compete in an international racing series in the Kingdom.

Reema made her competitive racing debut in October last year just months after a watershed moment for the Kingdom that allowed women to drive.

After a string of impressive performances, she will join the official support race for the Diriyah E Prix, the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY series, as the VIP driver for the double header opening weekend at the UNESCO World Heritage site on the outskirts of Riyadh.

“I am thrilled to be the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY VIP driver for the first race of season two. I can’t wait to be out on track racing on home soil for the first time,” Reema said.

Reema Juffali will create history later this month at the Diriyah Circuit. (Supplied)

“The series has highlighted the innovation and progress of motorsport, giving more opportunity for men and women to compete together in cool electric racecars. It’s going to be an amazing weekend and I can’t wait to be out on the grid.”

Reema made history by becoming the first Saudi female race license holder to compete in the TRD 86 Cup at Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi in October last year, taking second place in the Silver Category and fourth overall. Her previous racing experience also includes the MRF Challenge in India.

“We are so excited to have Reema join us in Diriyah as our VIP driver. Her progress in her first year of single-seater racing is very impressive. To have the first Saudi Arabian woman to compete in an international racing series within the Kingdom is a major milestone for the sport, and one Jaguar Racing are immensely proud to be able to support,” Mark Turner, the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY Series Manager said.

“The Diriyah Circuit has become the home of watershed moments for the Kingdom. We saw the first female drivers here last year, the first unsegregated concerts, and of course it was the first time that Formula E and the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy had raced in Saudi Arabia,” Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki AlFaisal Al Saud, Chairman of the GSA, said.

“This year we will again see more inspiring moments which help show the world the journey the Kingdom is on. I am sure Reema will have thousands cheering her on, as a professional racing driver I shall be one of them.”