National High School Team Completes Successful Italy Tour

The Japan National High School Team have returned home following their memorable three-match tour of Italy where they faced the host country’s U18 and U19 National Teams. With two losses in their opening fixtures, followed by a solid win in their final match, the 26-member squad returned to Japan with their heads held high, having done their country proud.

Arriving in Italy on March 14, the team had just two days to prepare for their first fixture, a practice match against Italy U18 on March 16 at Stadio Zaffanella in Viadana, just outside of the northern Italian city of Parma. The team clearly showed the effects of their long journey and limited preparation time, going down to their hosts in a high scoring, yet one sided 45-24 defeat.

While disappointed with their performance, the team had to regroup quickly for their first of two fixtures against Italy U19 at Stadio San Michele in the nearby town of Calvisano. Held just four days later, on March 20, Japan showed they had acclimatised to their new environment and moved on from the disappointment of their first game, putting in a solid performance to record a narrow 22-20 loss. With a halftime deficit of 10-3, Japan stepped up a gear in the second half in both attack and defence, challenging their hosts across the park.

Commenting after the match, Number Eight and Team Captain
Osuke Shiro said: “In the first half, we were too passive in defence and allowed Italy to score their first try. It was challenging to play an evening match in slippery conditions, but we became more comfortable in the second half. Our low tackling and fast defence, which is one of our most potent weapons started to work and we grew confident that we could attack from our driving maul. With what we learned tonight, I think we can go into the next match with confidence and return to Japan on a positive note.”

Following another four-day turnaround, the team lined up once again against Italy U19 in the third and final fixture on March 24. Japan had clearly learnt from their two previous matches and had prepared well on the training paddock, putting in a dominant first half performance to go into the sheds with a solid 5-24 halftime lead. The Italians came out strongly in the second half, scoring a try in the first five minutes and then another three tries in a six-minute burst, in the final 10 minutes of the game.

Following their three-try blitz, Italy caused some nerves for the visitors, bringing the game down to a four-point margin, with five minutes remaining on the clock and a score of 27-31. However, it was to be Japan’s day. Daigo Morio on the right wing crossed the line with minutes to spare, scoring Japan’s sixth try for a final score of 27-36.

Commenting after the match, Tomoya Takahashi, Japan National High School Team Head Coach said: “I was delighted with the win and that we could take control and dominate the game from the outset. It was a fitting result for all the effort the players and staff have been putting in. The experience of touring and to beat Italy away from home will give these men tremendous confidence going forward and I look forward to seeing them progress to U20 level and onto becoming full national team representatives. Lastly, I want to thank everybody who supported us in making this tour happen. It was a great success and so we thank you for your commitment and support.”

Following their final match, the team took some days to rest and recover, while also enjoying the experience of being on tour in Europe. The squad returned to Japan on March 27 having represented their country well and bringing honour to themselves, their friends and families, and to the broader Japanese rugby family.

2024 Japan National High School Team Italy Tour Match Summary

Match Schedule Location Result
Italy U18 Practice Match March 16 Stadio Zaffanella, Viadana 45-24 (L)
Italy U19 Match 1 March 20 Stadio San Michele, Calvisano 22-20 (L)
Italy U19 Match 2 March 24 Stadio San Michele, Calvisano 27-36 (W)