9 October 2019

School rugby team heads to Japan during World Cup

Linley Boniface

A New Zealand secondary school first XV has gone to Japan to play rugby against top Japanese school teams during the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Japanese international students helped them prepare for the trip.

Players from Wainuiomata High School in the Wellington region will spend two weeks in Japan playing against high school teams in Aomori, Oita, Fukuoka and Tokyo/Chiba.

Daiji Kataoka, the school’s International Dean, says it will be the trip of a lifetime. 

“Many of the students haven’t been out of New Zealand, so they are super excited,” says Daiji.

The players, aged 15 to 17, will stay mainly with families from the high schools they are playing against. In Oita, they will stay in dorms at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU), a leading international university.

Six Japanese students at the school are giving the players Japanese language lessons every week to prepare them for the trip. 

Wainuiomata’s close-knit community has also been rallying around the team, holding quizzes, raffles and other fundraising events to help send the players to Japan. 

The 22-strong team includes Japanese international student Shoh Takahashi, 16, who joined Wainuiomata High School in April. 

“I’ve become a better rugby player since I’ve been playing in New Zealand. Our First XV is a good team, and it will be a great experience to be able to play against other strong teams from Japanese schools,” says Shoh. 

Teams the Wainuiomata students will be playing against include two from its Japanese sister schools, Fukuoka’s Iizuka High School and Tokyo’s Oshukan Secondary School.

Wainuiomata High School previously sent groups of students studying Japanese to visit Japan, but now offers the trips to a wider group of students. Last year, its kapa haka (Māori performing arts) group toured Japan.

Daiji says, “My hope for our students is that they gain new perspectives on life and make friends with Japanese students. I want them to realise their potential and see how many possibilities are out there,” he says. 

“Japanese people take great pride in hosting people from different nationalities, so I know our students will be welcomed very warmly.”

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Linley Boniface

Linley Boniface is a contract writer for Education New Zealand. She is based in Wellington, her favourite city in New Zealand. A former journalist, Linley spent a year in Montreal, Canada, as a secondary school student.