22 Oct 2019

Japan calling: From feeling homesick to using te reo in a foreign land

8:03 am on 22 October 2019

We are getting down, as they say, to the pointy end of the Rugby World Cup - but that hasn't stopped a wealth of interesting angles being covered by RNZ's team in Japan.

New Zealand supporters pose prior to the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool B match between New Zealand and Namibia at the Tokyo Stadium in Tokyo on October 6, 2019.

Fans can expect two pulsating semifinals at the Rugby World Cup in Japan this weekend. Photo: AFP

The All Blacks take on England in Yokohama on Saturday in what is the pick of the two semifinals.

So while you are waiting for that epic encounter why not relax and take a look back at some of the best of our coverage of the cup from the RNZ team in Japan.

Looking back at the weekend's games

First up, there is one of the great lines on the All Blacks who beat Ireland 46-14. One pundit said, the "All Blacks feasted like a shoal of starving piranhas on Ireland." Who could have put it better?

Then there was the other shellacking in a quarter-final; England pulverising Australia 40-16.

Former coach Sir Clive Woodward, a man who has never particularly been rated by Kiwi fans after leading one of the worst British Lions tours down under - the 2005 version - was naturally talking up England's chances.

"Never underestimate the value of momentum," Woodward, who led England to World Cup glory in 2003, wrote in a column for the Daily Mail.

"England may face a massive task in tackling holders New Zealand but they have built up a huge head of steam after that emphatic quarter-final win over Australia.

"Everything is coming to the boil nicely and sometime soon this England side is going to produce a performance for the ages. Saturday would be the perfect time."

In the quarter-final between Wales and France, the Welsh sneaked past the men in blue - just. And the French? Well they were the French. Sublime and ridiculous.

Kiwi-born Welsh coach, Warren Gatland, had the best line of the night; "I thought the best team lost today." Ouch.

And then there were the Brave Blossoms, the team which has lit up this Rugby World Cup with their tenacity and speed. They threw themselves at absolutely everything last night but came up against a brick wall in the guise of the Springboks.

The emotional side of the All Blacks

It's been a good week for fascinating insights into the players.

First Joe Porter, himself a father of three, caught up with flanker Matt Todd and they discussed not rugby, but being away from the family for such a long period of time.

"Even just Facetiming them and seeing them on a screen you can see the changes and the development that they have in that time, so I guess it is tough if you're away for milestones like their first steps or stuff like that.

"Like my daughter's got her birthday next week, so you're away for stuff like that, [it] can be tough."

Our reporter then reflected on his own long journey away from the children and mused on being a father in this lovely piece.

Matt Todd with his partner Anna McCormack and their daughter Sadie Todd.

All Black Matt Todd and RNZ reporter Joe Porter have discussed the emotional strain of being away from partners and children for the duration of the Rugby World Cup. Photo: Photosport

We also caught up with Ardie Savea who talked us through his pre-game ritual and why he likes to wear a pink silicone wedding ring during games.

"I like to get out on the field and listen to my worship songs," he said.

"I can give thanks and reflect in my head. Yes, I am talented and blessed with a gift, but there is more than that, it is also about having fun and putting a smile on people's faces."

And while we are away from the rugby itself, this was a gem. Joe caught up with a former All Black and his brothers and talked to them about trying to keep

Māori tikanga and reo alive in Japan.

Still looking for more?

Then check out reporter Jessie Chiang's lovely first person piece on her reaction to people saying the Brave Blossoms seem to have a lot of non-Japanese in the team.

"But what those comments really mean, is that without 'foreign players', Japan, who have finished top of their pool, would have lost.

"Looks like I missed the memo when rugby stopped being about a team sport.

"Here's a wild idea, why don't we focus on the footy that is being played and not the colour of someone's skin?"

The Japan team celebrate with the crowd after their World Cup pool match win over South Africa at the 2015 tournament.

RNZ reporter Jessie Chiang has written about her reaction to people saying the Brave Blossoms seem to have a lot of non-Japanese in the team. Photo: Photosport

And finally there's our updated A to Z guide to the cups. That should keep you going until Saturday.

* You could also look back at all the stories from earlier in the cup, too.

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