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Brumbies' Japanese recruit Harumichi Tatekawa a trailblazer

New Brumbies recruit Harumichi Tatekawa practices his kicking during training at the University of Canberra on Thursday.

New Brumbies recruit Harumichi Tatekawa practices his kicking during training at the University of Canberra on Thursday. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

He is the first Asian recruit in the ACT Brumbies' history and Harumichi Tatekawa is confident he can overcome the language barrier to set a trend of Japanese players joining Super Rugby.

Tatekawa will have almost no time to settle into his new home as the Brumbies prepare to throw him immediately into action in their pre-season trial against the Otago Highlanders next week.

Former Brumbies and Australian coach Eddie Jones, and Wallabies great Toutai Kefu have backed Tatekawa, 24, to make a successful transition.

Tatekawa gets some pointers from Christian Lealiifano.

Tatekawa gets some pointers from Christian Lealiifano. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

First he faces a challenge to understand his teammates and coaches as the Brumbies ramp up their preparations.

Tatekawa speaks minimal English and arrived in the capital this week, supported by his Kubota backs coach Taishi Furukawa who doubles as his translator.

But while off-field communication is minimal, Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham insists ''rugby has its own language''.

''We've got to get our structures in his head, but he's super keen to get in there,'' Larkham said. ''He's a playmaker … it's positive the way he's responded and by the end of the week he'll be more up to speed. Rugby has its own language, we speak in a different lingo here.''

Tatekawa met Larkham on Thursday afternoon for a crash course in the team's structures and plays. The five-eighth and inside-centre will test himself against the Highlanders in Queenstown on January 31.

Making it tougher is that Furukawa will return to Japan on Sunday, leaving Brumbies and Wallabies forward Scott Fardy as one of his only teammates who can speak Japanese.

Tatekawa is unfazed and wants to pave the way for more Japanese players to join Super Rugby. He will become just the second Asian player to play Super Rugby if he gets a chance this season.

''This isn't just a one-year plan, this is a three- or four-year plan for me and this is the first try,'' Tatekawa said through Furukawa.

''I want to improve the Japanese rugby level, to take it higher. The language barrier is a big challenge for me.

''Communication is a vital skill, my English has to improve. Eddie [Jones] said to take on the challenge and then [go] back to Japan [as a better player].''

Former Wallabies No.8 Kefu is the Kubota coach and Furukawa has been giving Tatekawa limited assistance to help him settle in.

Tatekawa has played 20 Tests for Japan and Kefu described him as the Japanese version of Brumbies five-eighth Matt Toomua.

Wallabies forward Fardy spent three years playing in Japan before signing at the Brumbies in 2012.

''They love rugby in Japan and there are quality players, it's good Haru is getting a chance and we need to develop the game globally,'' he said.

''In rugby, a lot of the terms we use are the same, so he should pick it up pretty quickly. Communication is always going to be hard and the physicality is different. But Haru looks at home already and he's a big boy as well.''

Tatekawa arrives as Brumbies skipper Ben Mowen continues negotiations with the Australian Rugby Union before his departure at the end of the year.

Fairfax Media revealed Wallabies captain Mowen will play in France next year, but he is yet to find out when he will be released.

He will play the season with the Brumbies before he departs.

12 comments so far

  • This is a good thing the Brumbies are doing. It is encouraging more foreign imports moves like this. Each Super rugby team in Australia. are allowed 1 foreign import each. The Rebels,and Force get now a a foreign import spot eg like Gareth Delve,types, and a few development import sports about 5 per team now I think for this season. That means players, who have not yet represented there country of birth and after waiting 3 years may get the chance to wear the Wallaby
    Super rugby teams in Australia have not allowed, many foreign import spots, been sceptical on them, as have NZ and South Africa. And that's a hindrance to quality. Some Australian rugby, traditionalist rugby union fans, will bemoan this signing, and say he is taking a local spot. I look at it as a positive. Get the best player's in not, the best local or foreign import. 5-8 foreign imports per team. The NRC 3rd-Tier comp, is where the import restrictions, should be 1-2 per team. With higher playing standards that imports like this bring, it helps squad depth, and player rotation of front line-Wallabies, without compromising playing standards. And better standards, equals more TV ratings $$, crowds. And more money means more money to spend on developing comps like a NRC Under-20 comp. I have some rugby mates, who would rather watch an average local centre get an opportunity than say, SBW or Ma Nonu wear the Tahs jersey. disagree. Many fans also, let it be known care more about there club/team/franchise, than the national team, just like in football. Many Barcelona, Real Madrid or Manchester United fans, love there club as much as there national team. Same applies to rugby. More signings like this can only be good for playing standards.

    Commenter
    Matt
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    January 24, 2014, 12:20AM
    • @ Matt..." re foreign imports in NZ & Sth African teams....... being a hindrance to quality". Really I don't think so mate, as both NZ & Sth. Africa have the internal quality & depth within their ranks, unlike a lot of countries that have to import players & coaches from NZ & Sth Africa, to build up their player quality. Have a look at at the European & Japanese comps.& I'm sure you will see the great influx of these countries players along with a sprinkling of other Southern Hemisphere countries. One of the reason's being, NZ & Sth. Africa, have strong club foundations, backed up by the strength of their Provincial & State competitions ( The ITM cup in NZ & the Currie cup in Sth . Africa). This is even before they get to the Super rugby franchise competitions.

      Commenter
      Muzzo
      Location
      Orange
      Date and time
      January 25, 2014, 9:04AM
  • I don't even follow Rugby Union that much but I know how great this is!

    Commenter
    dramas
    Date and time
    January 24, 2014, 9:57AM
    • This is a cynical move by the Brumbies as it is about getting into the Japanese rugby supporters market. Japanese rugby is third tier at best and the Brumbies should really try and get top players from top tier rugby playing nations if they are serious. Go home Tatekawa and play your rugby there or why not try Canada or the US.

      Commenter
      Akari
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      January 24, 2014, 10:09AM
      • I don't see anything cynical about it. This is about getting players able to handle playing at Super Rugby level, while still fitting within the salary cap and your team's budget.

        The Japanese club competition may be third tier, but there are already individual Japanese players who have proven they can handle Super Rugby. Fumiaki Tanaka for the Highlanders and Shota Horie for the Rebels.

        Having former Brumbies/Wallabies coach Eddie Jones now coaching in Japan has just given the Brumbies a fortunate contact in Japan who is experienced enough to give accurate indications of players who can handle the step up.

        Commenter
        Markus
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        January 24, 2014, 12:38PM
      • Mate, by your reckoning no Australian soccer players should have ever played in the UK premier league or other European leagues because the standard of our comp is so much lower. Spread the love.

        Commenter
        CannonballKoala, Brisbane
        Date and time
        January 24, 2014, 12:56PM
      • Third tier? Maybe you're right, I don't follow it closely enough to say one way or the other. I do know however that sometimes good players come from lesser competitions........does the name Scott Fardy ring any bells? He was recruited from Japan, after not making it in a top level competition.

        Commenter
        Megalania
        Date and time
        January 24, 2014, 3:46PM
      • What tier are Wales then?

        June 2013

        "Japan record historic first win over Wales

        JAPAN (6) 23
        Tries: Wing, Broadhurst Cons: Goramaru (2) Pens: Goramaru (3)
        WALES (3) 8
        Try: Prydie Pen: Biggar
        Japan claimed their first win over Wales with a sparkling second-half display to win the second Test 23-8 in Tokyo and draw the two-Test series."

        Commenter
        Matt Tatami
        Date and time
        January 24, 2014, 11:06PM
    • That's a bit harsh Akari, give the guy a chance, haven't you heard of getting a fair go its a Australian tradition.

      Commenter
      Dickson Mauler
      Location
      Dickson
      Date and time
      January 24, 2014, 11:43AM
      • He can't be the second asian player ever. Fumiaki Tanaka (Highlanders) and Shota Horie (Rebels) have already played Super rugby.

        Commenter
        TP
        Date and time
        January 24, 2014, 12:54PM

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