Sunday, 13 October 2019


I got up early to watch Namibia play Canada in the rugby union world cup. The match itself was not significant in the competition. Neither side had qualified for the knock-out stage. It would have been good to see an even contest involving teams too often on the wrong side of a drubbing by one of the rugby world's elite, but that was not the main reason for my interest. This was that on the last day of the pool competitions a town recovered from disaster had been awarded a world cup tie, with the benefits of tourism and publicity that followed.

The fairy-tale begins eight years ago. The town was a home to Nippon Steel, who sponsored a rugby team. This had folded, but the enthusiasm for rugby union was such that, with the help of two or three players from further south, the team was reborn as the Kamaichi Seawaves. Then there was the disaster of March 2011. A magnitude 9 earthquake struck off the coast, triggering a tsunami which killed a thousand residents of Kamaishi as well as wreaking physical destruction. It would have been easy for the Australian, the New Zealander and the Tongan-born All-black to have written off that part of their rugby careers and departed, but they stayed to help rebuild the town and the team. The reward for them and the town came in the shape of two world cup matches. There is more in a Japan Times article in English here.

Ironically, yet another natural disaster, the unseasonably-late and monstrous typhoon Hagibis, put paid to the town's second match. However, the first had its significance in providing one of the shocks of the competition - a match I unfortunately missed.

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