On September 12, Waseda University, aiming to reclaim its title for the first time in two years, took on Rikkyo University in the opening game of the rivalry season and won 70-0. He has been a core member of the team since his sophomore year at Toin Gakuen High School, where he won the national high school rugby championship in the winter last year. He scored two tries out of the blue and showed signs of being a monster.
In junior high school, he was a two-way player, playing soccer as well.
He has shown his ability.
On September 12, Kenji Sato, a freshman on the Waseda University rugby team, started the first game of the Kanto Intercollegiate rugby tournament A at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium in Saitama. He immediately scored two tries.
What is interesting is that he also shone in scenes that will not be recorded.
In the 32nd minute of the first half, with Ritsumeikan University leading 36-0, he secured a pass from the left side in the center of the enemy goal. At the end of his step, he collided with a tackler who had gained momentum. He pushed back and moved forward.
In the end, he was brought down by his pursuer, but he carefully placed the ball on the ground to set up another goal for his teammates. Ritsudai had to spend three players to beat Sato, who until recently was a high school student. The new nucleus of the team won his debut match 70-0.
His position was number eight. He is a key player for the forwards who clash with each other. The position was filled by former captain Takama Maruo last season. In the history of Waseda University, which has won the university championship 16 times, the number of newcomers to this position is limited to a few, such as Takamichi Sasaki, former captain of the 2005 championship and a member of the Japanese national team.
Sato, who passed through this narrow gate, won two consecutive national high school rugby championships as captain of Toin Gakuen High School. He was the equivalent of a professional pitcher who had won the Koshien championship, and he made a name for himself. As far back as his junior year at Yokohama Rugby School, he played an active role in the National Junior Rugby Football Tournament as a rusher and hard worker for the Kanagawa Prefecture Rugby School Representative. He has always been touted as a great talent.
“Even if you are a first-year student, I want you to take on the role of a leader.
The clear-eyed young man speaks bravely after receiving such encouragement from assistant coach Jotaro Gon, former captain of Waseda University.
“I didn’t want to be a player who follows his seniors, I wanted to be a player who can tell them how he wants to play and what he is thinking about. I wanted to be a player who could tell others how I wanted to play and what I was thinking. So (Coach Gonjo’s) words didn’t blow me away, but it did make it easier for me to play.
Officially, he is 178 cm tall and weighs 100 kg. He is officially 178 centimeters tall and weighs 100 kilograms, but according to Tomoki Nagata, the captain of the team, and several other fourth-year students, “His weight training numbers are unbelievably high compared to when we were freshmen. Although the exact record is not disclosed due to team policy, the highest bench press weight in high school was estimated to be 125kg. I think I’m stronger now than I was then, and I’ve already proven against Ritsumeikan University that I’m unmeasurable on the ground.
“I don’t usually think that I’m strong.
This is how he modestly describes his origins from a different angle.
When he was in junior high school, he was a member of the school’s soccer club as well as a rugby school on weekends. In junior high school, he was a member of the school’s soccer team as well as a weekend rugby school.
“The soccer club had the use of the field every other day, and on the other days, we would do hill dashes and ‘outer laps. My junior high school is surrounded by hills, and we would run all the way around the hills. I used to do this on weekdays, and on weekends I would also run at Yokohama Rugby School. I think that is what has led to my current running ability.
Leach Michael also had nights when he would spread butter on eight slices of bread and devour them in addition to his regular meals. The future captain of the national team at Sapporo Yamanote High School wanted to grow his body even though he had no knowledge of nutrition.
The time spent earnestly tackling these seemingly unreasonable or unscientific activities can cultivate a unique strength that only a person can possess.
Sato, who ran all the way up and down the slopes, can be said to have had the experience necessary to become a top athlete. Now that he is training himself based on theory in the dormitory at Waseda University, he feels that he has taken a step up.
“I feel that the strength of contact is different between high school and college. I’m in the process of improving my weight and muscle strength to make sure I’m physically fit. I’ve gained 4 to 5 kilograms since I entered the school. The meals at the dormitory are buffet style, so I have to think about the nutrition that suits my body while taking them. I think I’m more knowledgeable about food than I was in high school.
The power of words: an essential factor in Sato’s development
Another factor that has helped Sato evolve is words.
Under the guidance of Tsutomu Fuse, his mental trainer at Toin Gakuen High School, Sato made it a habit to write in his rugby notebook. In the beginning, he would only write down his personal goals before a game, but by the time he reached his final year, he would pick up a pen at least once a day. This was because he was encouraged to do so by Yasumasa Konishi (junior) and Daisuke Ito (sophomore), both former captains of Waseda University.
Looking back on the team’s daily practices, he sorted out “Good” (what was good), “Bad” (what was bad), and “Next” (what should be done in the future). At the university, he wrote down the advice given by the new coach Tatsuhiko Otao and other leaders, as well as the tactical terms used in the team and their meanings.
He has subconsciously cultivated a sense of turning his own words into a fundamental strength.
“Before a game, I look at what I did and didn’t do in my notebook over the previous week and decide on my theme for that game. I know (through the text) what I have been thinking and practicing at that time, and that pushes me forward.
His decision to enter Waseda University was a fulfillment of a long-held wish, but what is noteworthy is that he consciously continued to communicate this wish to those around him.
Here, too, the connection between words and body is apparent.
The connection between words and the body is also apparent here: “If I tell people [about my goals], my actions will change. Rather than being vague about it, I want to make it clear and change my behavior. …That was my intention.”
He wanted to join Waseda University because he felt that the style of the team was “close to the kind of rugby I wanted to play. “I wanted to join Waseda University because I felt that the style of the team was close to the kind of rugby I wanted to play. I’m aiming to be a forward who can run, have skill, and do everything, and I was attracted to Waseda University’s rugby, where all the players work together to develop the ball. He would like to convert from his current position of number eight to a hooker in the center of the front row of the scrum.
He said, “I think it would be great if I could do everything: play hooker, run, kick, and so on. And…”
In accordance with the team’s policy, he is a regular number eight, but he also prepares himself for when the time comes. He listens to the words of the main hooker in between scrum practices to deepen his knowledge of the tactics and posture of the team.
“When a scrum is over, the hookers say, ‘This was bad, so let’s do this. Even when I’m number eight (paying attention to the front), I want to analyze why the scrum was good or bad.
Sato will now play seven more matches against the defending champions Teikyo University and Meiji University, aiming to become a multi-skilled player who can compete on the world stage while trying to earn a ticket to the University Championship, which will be Japan’s 17th championship.
Reporting and writing： 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: A Record of the Fighting Wolves of Super Rugby" (Futabasha).