“Japan national team player Kazuki Himeno’s recovery from the bottom | FRIDAY DIGITAL

“Japan national team player Kazuki Himeno’s recovery from the bottom

"He was battling "unexpected hardships" before setting a new goal of "becoming the best back row in the world.

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Kazuki Himeno shortly after defeating European champions Ireland in the 2019 World Cup in Japan (Photo: Kaoru Watanabe)

Kazuki Himeno, who helped Japan finish in the top eight at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, has become mentally tougher after taking on New Zealand this year. He is evolving every day with an eye on the 2023 World Cup in France.

At the moment the whistle blew, he shouted and raised his fist in the air.

October 23, Showa Denko Dome Oita. In the 33rd minute of the first half, Kazuki Himeno, the number eight of Japan’s national team, dropped to his haunches in front of a fallen runner near the halfway line. He got involved with the ball at hand.

He keeps his arm on the ball, almost torn off by the other team’s supporters. The referee calls a foul on my opponent.

Himeno, playing in his first national team game in almost two years, performed his signature move called the jackal. It was inevitable that he would make a gut pose.

On this day, he also showed his ability to rush through the wall. The Australian team, ranked third, seven places higher in the world rankings, narrowly lost 23-32, but their presence was felt.

His current goal is to become the world’s best back-row player (a group of flankers and number eights). In the beginning of the training camp that started in late September, he said, “I want to be the best back row in the world.

“I want to be the best back row in the world. I have about 10 years to play rugby in the future. There is still time, so I will look at my feet, face myself, drive myself to grow, and always think about what I am missing. Later on, I want to be able to match and surpass Michael Hooper and Ardie Savea (of New Zealand).”

The reason he has set his sights so high is because he has been in a different country for a while.

The 27-year-old Himeno, who stands 187 centimeters tall and weighs 112 kilograms, will start five matches at the World Cup in Japan in the fall of 2019. It will be his first time in the top eight. The jackal he scored in the match against the powerful Irish national team was featured in sports news as well as on wide screen.

In order to further develop his skills, he chose to challenge New Zealand.

In this country, the national team has won the World Cup three times. The national team has won the World Cup three times, and there are many current national team players such as Savea. This was the kind of country Himeno was looking to enter. A deadline day transfer to the Highlanders, where former Japan national team player Shiro Tanaka was also a member, was completed. He had great ambitions.

“I wanted to prove my strength as a Japanese. I want to prove my strength. That’s what I want to get the most. I want to make rugby an indispensable part of Japan in the future. If we can prove that Japanese people can play overseas, it will lead to more and more popularity and an increase in the number of players in Japan, and it will also lead to children being able to have dreams…”

After a period of quarantine to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, he joined the Aotearoa Super Rugby (the name of the league), the country’s highest level of rugby, in March. He won the Rookie of the Year award. However, at that time, he faced an unexpected hardship.

It was also the time when he moved from living with his teammates to living alone. The timing of the honor gave him time to settle down, but he could not find the energy to move on.

With the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman clash with an Australian club coming up in mid-May, I even considered withdrawing from the Japan national team that had been called up for the tournament in June.

“I thought I would never say, ‘I want to go home,’ but then I said, ‘Oh, I want to go home. I thought I would never say, ‘I want to go home.

HIMENO poses for a photo with a local fan after a match against the Hurricanes in Wellington, New Zealand, in April (Photo: Afro)

Fortunately for me, I had about a week off at that time.

Himeno, who has always written down his goals and thoughts on a piece of paper or a board, changed his “mental approach” during the refreshment period. He dared to abandon the cause that brought him to New Zealand in the first place, and so to speak, he broke free.

Until then,” he said, “I had been putting a lot of pressure on myself, thinking that the value of a Japanese player would change depending on whether or not I got results, and I had been in an environment of stress in my private life. I was in an environment where I was under a lot of stress in my private life, and I analyzed myself to see if that was the reason for the phenomenon of my mental breakdown. From that point on, I tried to genuinely enjoy rugby. I didn’t care if I didn’t get any results, and even if that lowered the value of Japanese players, that was fine. It doesn’t matter if the fans are saying, ‘You’re not ready yet! …When I got into that mentality, I was able to do it with a lot of energy.

Thus, he played well in the “Trans-Tasman” and advanced to the finals. In addition to improving his mind, he had a new theme: “To be the best back row in the world.

“I was able to change my mentality as needed, and I think that was a big part of my growth.

He also dug deeper into the subject of how the mind works overseas, reevaluating the cultures of the two countries and coming to a simple conclusion.

“In New Zealand, time is more relaxed. I thought it was nice to be able to switch on and off, but it was also appropriate in both good and bad ways. I was originally planning to live in a flat with my teammates for about two weeks to learn how to spend time there, and then live on my own when I was done. But in reality, the house was not ready until a few months later, and when I tried to enter the room with the key that the real estate agency gave me, the key was wrong.

On the other hand, in Japan, people are very strict and do not value their time. I thought it would be great if we could mix the best of both worlds. …Well, it’s hard to say, but I think it’s very important to take care of yourself. Yes.

Before Japan’s national team activities started this fall, there was a change of captain.

The new captain is Peter Rabuska, who has been in charge of the national team for the past two World Cups, as well as the tour through the summer when Himeno was able to join in the middle. Before Peter Lovescoughni was announced as the new captain, Himeno seemed to be a candidate.

According to Siosaia Fifita, a Tongan who made his debut for the national team this year, “I was surprised at how good Himeno-san’s English is. I was surprised at how good Himeno-san’s English was,” said Siosaia Fifita from Tonga, who made her debut for the national team this year.

However, when he first arrived in New Zealand, he said, “I studied English to a certain extent before I came to New Zealand, but at first I didn’t understand any (conversation) because of the slang. Even now, he is aware of the fact that “I can only speak in daily conversation, but I can’t speak that well.

On the other hand, Leach, who came to Japan from New Zealand at the age of 15, once gave a lecture on World War II and the Great East Japan Earthquake to the players in Japanese. He is, of course, perfectly capable of interacting with English-speaking referees.

Given the reality of the situation, the future boat captain candidate is cautious. Himeno confides, “I’m not sure I want to be the captain.

“I’m interested in it, and I’d like to try it. However, in international games, English ability is important. In that sense, I’m still a little nervous and there are still some tough parts for me. As a prerequisite, I think I need to improve my English ability. The Japanese national team is also a global team, so I think it’s essential (for the captain) to be able to speak both English and Japanese.”

The team will travel to Europe on October 29, and from November 6, they will play a total of three matches against the Irish and Scottish national teams that played in Japan. The Aichi-born hero, who can look at his mental state and position objectively, attracts people even when he is not the captain. With his outstanding performance and charming character.

  • Reporting and writing by Mukai Kazamiya

    Sports writer, born in Toyama Prefecture in 1982. Has been active as a sports writer since 2006. He has been active as a sports writer since 2006, mainly covering rugby. He is the author of "The Challenge of the Sunwolves: Super Rugby: Records of the Fighting Wolves" (Futabasha).

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