In 1982 an England Students side travelled to Japan to play a match against Japan at the Hanazono Stadium in Osaka. If the stadium felt familiar to the team it was probably because it was modelled on Twickenham, when built at the behest of Prince Chichibu in 1929.
The strong England team included seven future England internationals, amongst them Simon Halliday and Brian Moore. Facing them were a Japan side captained by Takeo Ishizuka, with a youthful Seiji Hirao in the backs.
The game proved one sided with England’s superior scrum spoiling the Japanese game plan allowing the visitors to rack up eight tries for no return. Several of the players on both sides would meet each other again five years later when England and Japan contested their first ever test-match, in the inaugural Rugby World Cup.
Perhaps most challenging for the English youngsters of 1980, however, was adapting to unfamiliar surroundings as their welcoming hosts made sure to introduce the young players to delights of Japanese cuisine, onsen and popular culture. After witnessing such a display of culture the tourists responded in time-honored fashion, with a sing-song.
This collection of photographs from the tour shows how much fun the English players had.
The Hanazono Stadium will host four pool matches in the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Our ‘Brave Blossoms: The History of Rugby in Japan’ special exhibition will run until the end of August 2019 and is brought to you in partnership with England Rugby Travel and Kanto District Transport Bureau.