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.