Japan’s Rugby Ace Matsushima Will Return to Japan for “Family Reason” | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Japan’s Rugby Ace Matsushima Will Return to Japan for “Family Reason”

He gave a furious interview to Rugbyrama, the website of France's Midi Olympique. Is he likely to return to his old club, Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath?

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Matsushima plays in Clermont, France, on March 26, amid local reports that he injured his right shoulder in April, making his return this season uncertain (Photo: AFLO)

The main reason for leaving the host country, France, one year before the World Cup

If I only thought about rugby, it would be better to stay here (France) for one more year until the World Cup (in France next year). But for reasons other than rugby, I thought it was time to return to Japan.

Kotaro Matsushima is a Japan national rugby team FB who plays for Clermont Auvergne (Clermont), a top 14 team in France. On April 28, he revealed in an interview with Rugbyrama, a website of Midi Olympique, a French rugby newspaper, that he will return to Japan at the end of this season.  

The departure of Matsushima, who was in the second season of a two-year contract with Clermont, has been frequently discussed in the local French media in recent weeks, with negotiations underway with the club.

An only child, Matsushima lost his Zimbabwean father when he was a sophomore in high school, and his mother lives in Tokyo. Late last year, He also announced his marriage and the birth of his first child on Instagram, writing, “From now on, we will support each other in difficult times, and above all, we will enjoy life together as a family.

In the same interview, Matsushima said, “It was a very difficult decision. Above all, it is a choice for my family. For the past two years, I have been away from Japan, separated from my family and friends. I had no wife or mother in Clermont, and I was alone.As he said, his decision to return to Japan from France was made with his mother, wife, and children in mind.

Furthermore, Matsushima described the two years he spent playing in France, “I grew up in Tokyo, so the quiet life in Auvergne was therapeutic for me. I have no regrets about playing in Clermont, which offered me an opportunity before any other club. I also liked the TOP 14 because it was a more physical and tactical league than Super Rugby.”

Also, the French league is more physically demanding than the Japanese league. It is a long league that runs from September to June, and he joined the national team in the middle of its season last fall. Also, if Matsushima were to play in France again next year and Clermont made it to the playoff final, he would only be able to join the Japan national team about two months before the World Cup, which would start next September 2023.

Therefore, it was reported that the Japan Rugby Union had strongly requested that he return to Japan and play in League One. He could concentrate more on representing Japan in next year’s World Cup, aiming for a top eight finish or better, which he recorded in the previous edition in Japan. Matsushima’s decision was “for the sake of his family,” but it is a good news for the coaches of the Japanese national rugby team.

The decision to leave the host country, France, one year before the World Cup was not an easy one. However, the fans are looking forward to seeing Matsushima’s dynamic running in Japan (photo: AFLO).
Matsushima, who has decided to leave Clermont and return to Japan, is eager to get his right shoulder. He was injured on April 10 and is expected to take 6 to 8 weeks to heal, to return to playing as soon as possible.Before leaving France, Matsushima would like to play one more time in front of the “yellow army” of Clermont fans, and of course, the Japanese national rugby team is scheduled to play the French national team twice in Japan in July. Matsushima is enthusiastic about the prospect of playing in those test matches if given the chance.

In the same interview, he was also asked which Japanese One League club he would like to play for, to which he replied, “I can’t say yet (laughs). But when asked, “Is it a strong club?” to which Matsushima replied, “Probably.

The most likely candidate for Matsushima’s new club would be his old club, Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath, which currently leads the League One standings and where he played for seven seasons.

All Blacks (New Zealand national team) player Damian McKenzie, who currently plays FB for Sungoliath, is considered a definite candidate to leave the team after this season and return to New Zealand. Matsushima, who has grown up both physically and mentally after playing in France, is more than likely to play as No. 15 for the Sungoliath again.

Matsushima, a native of Bunkyo, is also likely to choose a club in the Tokyo area, such as the Yokohama Canon Eagles, based in Yokohama City. It is the same city where he attended Toin Gakuen High School, and coached by Keisuke Sawaki, the former coach of the Sungoliath. A new club to be established by the NTT Group in the form of the NTT Communications Shining Arcs Tokyo Bay Urayasu may also be a candidate.  

Either way, we look forward to seeing Matsushima again in League One next season.

  • Interview and text by Takehito Saito

    Born in 1975. He is a sportswriter who covers and writes for magazines and websites, focusing on rugby and soccer. He has covered the World Cup for five consecutive tournaments until the 2019 tournament, and covered all 57 matches of the last tournament led by Eddie Jones. His recent books include "Rugby Language Dictionary" (Seibundo Shinkosha) and "Introduction to Rugby Spectatorship" (Kairyusha). In his high school days, he played FB with a strong tackling ability.

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