Why Japan’s Matsuda, who has a 93% success rate in kicking, created the “Dinosaur Pose” in the big game for the top eight in the Rugby World Cup | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Why Japan’s Matsuda, who has a 93% success rate in kicking, created the “Dinosaur Pose” in the big game for the top eight in the Rugby World Cup

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Matsuda just before the press kick. The way he stood with his hands out in front of his solar plexus had a deep meaning in order to make the kick.

Matsuda sets the oval ball on the kicking tee. From there, he aligns the axis foot with the kicking foot and takes four steps backward and two more steps to the right. From a square stance with his back straight and elbows bent as if drawing his shoulder blades together, Rikiya Matsuda approaches the ball straight and kicks it–that is his routine.

This is what Rikiya Matsuda calls “Dinosaur Pose. The name comes from his standing posture, with his hands out in front of his solar plexus, which reminds one of the giant creatures that roamed the earth in prehistoric times. His teammate Lemeki Romanova says he looks like a Tee Rex.

Only one missed press kick

On October 8, Japan’s national rugby team will play its final pool match against Argentina (kickoff at 20:00 Japan time) to advance to the World Cup finals for the second consecutive tournament. Matsuda, a standoff player (SO), has led the team to the point where they are within one point of Argentina, who are currently in second place in the pool. He has started all three matches for Rugby Japan, playing with the number 10 on his back, and has made 15 of his 16 kicks at goal, an astonishing 93.75% success rate.

In the World Cup, it is said that having a good kicker is a prerequisite for success. This is because the closer the game is, the more important the two points for conversion (C) and the three points for penalty goals (PG) become. As of October 1, after the fourth week of the tournament, the team’s 37 points (8 C and 7 PG) ranked them 6th overall in the standings. Coach Shin Hasegawa, who specializes in scrums, said, “Rikiya’s kicking really helps us. (I feel that if [the forwards] work hard here, they will definitely score three points.

However, the team was not in good shape prior to the tournament, starting only two of the six national team games played in July and August. In particular, his goal kicking was poor, with only 50% (3 out of 6 successful kicks), and many predicted that 22-year-old Lee Seung-shin would be used as a standoff for the World Cup.

However, he has been the team’s leader since the first match against Chile. He was the driving force behind the victory, scoring goals with accurate goal kicking while maintaining a calm control of the game. In the third game against Samoa, his streak of successes finally came to an end at 13, but he made the next two PGs to help the team win by six points.

Why did Matsuda get back on track here? The reason was that he corrected his form just before the World Cup. Until the last warmup match before the tournament, against Italy on August 26, I wasn’t able to do my own kicking,” he recalls.

When he took another look at his own points, he realized that there were some minor discrepancies. He then took the advice of trainer Yoshito Sato, whom he places great trust in, and changed his stance so that he was conscious of not letting his right shoulder drop. As a result, he is now able to kick with confidence, saying, “If I get that part right, I can be sure to get it right.

The moment of kicking. The right shoulder, one of the checkpoints, has not dropped

The “big turning point” that came to Matsuda

The fact that Matsuda was able to go from a situation in which even his regular position was thought to be in jeopardy to showing his true potential on the field is a testament to the solid progress he has made over the past four years. In Japan’s first World Cup in 2007, Matsuda was positioned as a backup for Masaru Tamura, and although he was included in all five matches, he did not start in any of them. He said, “Personally, it was a very frustrating tournament for me.

Four years later, in France, I will definitely play as a regular No. 10. The major turning point for Matsuda, who had made a fresh start with this determination, came in October 2009, when he played for Australia in Oita. In the first test match held in Japan in two years, after a long period of inactivity due to the COVID-19 crisis, Matsuda started in the starting lineup at SO, ahead of Tamura. In addition to assisting a try with a kick pass, he scored 8 points (1 G, 2 PG), proving his ability in a serious match against a strong team that had won the World Cup twice before.

He later revealed his feelings at the time, saying, “From the time we started practicing, the players around me were always trying to get me to play better.

I had the feeling that the players around me started to look at me from the time we started practicing. Until then, I had been thinking that I had to do the same thing as Yu-san (Tamura), but now I can think that I just have to bring my own unique flavor to the game.

He continued to produce results with his team, the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights. In the 22nd season of League One, he started wearing number 10 from the first game and achieved 13 consecutive wins in the league. In the final game of the season, he suffered a serious injury, rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, and spent more than half a year away from the field, but he made a spectacular comeback in the opening game of the 2010-2011 season, leading the team to its second consecutive final appearance as a regular SO. Takuya Yamazawa, who was a prodigy in his youth days and is of the same generation, plays the same position and has been compared to him at every opportunity, but he has never given up his first-choice No. 10 spot.

In June of this year, Matsuda spoke of his feelings before his first national team training camp in a year and a half, saying, “I know it will be hard training, but I am more than happy to be back and excited.

For the past four years, I have been very focused on the number 10 position. I want people to see how I’ve grown, and I want to make it to the top eight in 2019 or better in terms of results.

The phrase that has been passed down from generation to generation in the rugby club of his alma mater, Fushimi Kogyo (now Kyoto Kogakuin), is “Trust is power. Rikiya Matsuda, who has used his frustration to win a spot in the regular SO position against Argentina in a crucial life-or-death match, will take the field for the decisive game with the faith that he has built up.

Matsushima and Matsuda (right) play with their child after the match against England on September 18, with a gentle expression on their faces that is not seen at all when they are playing.
Inagaki’s wife, Takako, a model, also came to the stands in France. No doubt she is powering Inagaki’s struggles.
Can they defeat Argentina with the gamemaking that has secretly built up their confidence?
I hope to lead Japan to victory with my unmatched kicking accuracy, which has only missed one shot so far in the tournament.
  • Interview and text by Mitsunobu Naoe Mitsunobu Naoe

    Born in Kumamoto City in 1975. Graduated from Waseda University's School of Commerce after attending Kumamoto Prefectural High School. He started playing rugby at Kumamoto High School and participated in the Flower Garden in his junior year. He is currently working as a freelance reporter mainly for Rugby Magazine. Author of "Waseda Rugby: Struggle for Evolution" (Kodansha)

  • Photo Sankei Shimbun (1st) Aki Nagao (2nd-5th)

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