28 Oct 2019

Rugby World Cup: Meet Holland's biggest rugby fan

12:02 pm on 28 October 2019

Pierre Janssen might just be the biggest rugby fan in the Netherlands.

Based in Eindhoven, he travelled halfway across the world to Japan to attend the Rugby World Cup, where he soaked in the atmosphere at Wales' group matches against Uruguay and Fiji, although his plans to watch the All Blacks take on Italy were scuppered by Typhoon Hagibis.

Dutch rugby fan Pierre Janssen was backing the Wallabies in Japan.

Dutch rugby fan Pierre Janssen was backing the Wallabies in Japan. Photo: Vinnie Wylie/RNZ Pacific

Janssen first started following the sport 12 years ago, when he was in college. After meeting a friend in a bar, his eyes were drawn to the nearby TV screen where an unfamiliar kind of game was being played.

"We had a few drinks, we watched it and kind of got interested into the sport," he recalled. "And after that I followed it over the years. Also, going to Australia helped a lot."

Janssen spent two years living in Australia and, while he never made it to a live game down under, said it helped solidify his love for the sport.

Australia captain Michael Hooper scores against Wales

Wallabies captain Michael Hooper is Janssen's favourite player. Photo: Photosport

"I follow the Wallabies but that's because I've been to Australia and I just follow the sport in general," he said. "If it's France against Tonga it's a great game to watch."

"I was travelling and working just to get around but I just followed the team and the sport in general and from that I just became interested."

The Netherlands hosted the first ever women's international rugby test in 1982, as well as the 1998 Women's Rugby World Cup.

But Janssen said the sport still struggles for coverage in his homeland, with the men's national teams having never qualified for the Rugby World Cup.

"It's not really broadcast in the Netherlands. Because of the World Cup now it's on pay-per-view but normally on a day to day basis you really rely on internet, internet forums," he said.

"It's not a major sport at all - it's broadcast pay-per-view but it's not in any national sports newspaper."

Wales player Josh Adams scores against Fiji.

Pierre Janssen was in Oita to watch Wales beat Fiji. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Janssen finally got to witness his first rugby live game after travelling to England for the 2015 World Cup.

In a country where football reigns supreme, Janssen admits his friends and family find his passion for the 15-a-side game curious.

"A lot of my family think, 'wow that's interesting, why do you come to watch rugby so much?'" he said, laughing.

"I just love the game. There's something about it - it brings people together and there's not a hostile environment between fans."

Fellow fans in Japan have also been somewhat taken aback by Janssen's unorthodox rugby origins.

"They were really surprised that a Dutch man is following the sport, supporting the Wallabies and the sport in general."

Dutch rugby fan Pierre Janssen (L) makes some new friends in Japan during the World Cup.

Dutch rugby fan Pierre Janssen (L) makes some new friends in Japan during the World Cup. Photo: Supplied

While he didn't get the chance to watch his favourite player, Wallabies captain Michael Hooper, in the flesh, Janssen said the highlight of his World Cup experience was watching one of the Brave Blossoms' triumphs in the pool stage alongside fellow fans from around the world.

"We were coming back from the Wallabies vs Uruguay match, I went back to Fukuoka at my motel and I ended up watching Japan vs Samoa in a bar and that was awesome," he recalled.

"The whole bar is just filled with Japanese people, Australians, English, Irish and they were all cheering for Japan, that was really great."

And with France only a stones throw away from home, the chances are Pierre Janssen will be cheering on from the stands again in four years time.