I Met An England Rugby Union Legend


The scores are degree within the showpiece rugby last with simply thirty seconds remaining. The scrum-half throws the ball again to the fly-half who drops for glory in dramatic late trend. The ball sails between the posts and the followers of that participant’s group rejoice wildly as victory is sealed. The complete time whistle blows simply moments later and one of many best moments in English rugby is born.

You’d be forgiven for considering I used to be speaking about Johnny Wilkinson slotting it for England towards Australia within the 2003 Rugby World Cup Remaining however I’m really referring to the 2022 Premiership rugby last in England the place Leicester Tigers defeated Saracens. The participant behind that magical second was the one and solely Freddie Burns.

Earlier than that defining second in his profession, he had performed in Japan throughout the Covid_19 period when video games had been performed behind closed doorways or superior tickets needed to be bought by way of a moderately difficult on-line system. Nevertheless, when it was introduced final yr that he’d be returning to the identical group (Toyota Shuttles) in Nagoya I set my coronary heart on watching him in motion.

That will not be really easy although as Aichi Prefecture is sort of removed from Tokyo. Additionally, the second tier in Japan consists of simply six groups with solely two of them being situated within the Better Tokyo space. Moreover, engaged on Saturdays restricts my choices however fortunately their away match in Chiba towards NEC Inexperienced Rockets was scheduled for a Sunday in late March. I needed to bide my time however finally that day got here spherical final weekend.

12 months in the past I made my return to Kashiwanoha Park Athletic Stadium for the primary time in 19 years. To be sincere, I actually wasn’t anticipating to return so quickly however restricted probabilities to see Burns’ group play meant I had no selection. The placement is a extremely nice one however it’s not really easy to get to and concerned a very packed bus experience from Kashiwa station for 20 minutes on this event.

Each spectator was given a free shirt on entry with the house membership’s slogan for 2024 emblazoned not so subtly on the back and front of it. It says “We had been born to play this sport. That is our time” which I’d often make some ironic comment about however because the Inexperienced Rockets are using excessive on the high of the second division I can’t say an excessive amount of towards it. As for the shirt, nicely it actually is sort of terrible isn’t it?!!

My ticket was for the primary stand however with kick off about half-hour away I made a decision to stroll spherical to the opposite one to see if there have been a gaggle of Shuttles followers to observe the match with. I couldn’t spot any although so returned to the primary stand the place I later noticed on Instagram that there was a really small contingent of about eight followers in blue on the other facet to me. My plan was to hitch them at half time to extend my probabilities of assembly my hero however after I noticed the Shuttles gamers exit the pitch proper beneath me I believed my current place could have been higher so I stayed put.

Earlier than all of that although there was the primary half motion. Inexperienced Rockets obtained off to a flier with an early attempt on 4 minutes earlier than Shuttles replied 5 minutes later due to the ingenuity of Burns who duly transformed. It was an thrilling begin to the sport.


Nevertheless, it was a nightmare for Freddie only a minute later as his tried attempt line clearance kick was charged down and caught by the Aussie Nick Phipps who touched it right down to put the house facet in entrance, and there was no wanting again after that.


The rating was 27-21 at half time with each groups nonetheless in it. I’ll have been cheering for the house time while sporting that awful-looking shirt however inside I hoped for an away win as my probabilities of assembly a participant on the dropping group can be diminished.

The second half didn’t fairly dwell as much as the primary as Rockets elevated their lead with a pair extra tries earlier than Shuttles obtained a late comfort attempt with the conversion positioned proper in entrance of me. Sadly, he missed it and moments later the house facet did convert a penalty as the ultimate whistle blew.


Until the scores are neck and neck, I’m often lengthy passed by that stage in these rugby matches. Nevertheless, I stayed round within the useless hope of assembly Freddie however it was a protracted wait as he took the defeat badly and sat on the bench for ages because the followers all cleared out round me.

half-hour after full time and he was nonetheless there while the post-match interviews and celebrations continued for the Inexperienced Rockets gamers and employees. I used to be the final particular person in that a part of the stand and completely determined for the bathroom by this stage however stored my place.

I used to be noticed by one other Shuttles international participant who regarded up and noticed my Tigers shirt and England flag. I requested if Freddie was in unhealthy temper and he confirmed so however ensured me that he would (finally!) come and see me. Moments later he picked himself up (each actually and mentally!) and got here up the steel steps in entrance of me to shake my hand and we really talked for 5-10 minutes which was an actual thrill for me.

We chatted about many issues just like the match itself, the aforementioned Leicester Tigers last, the fashion of the home sport, his latest look on the Huge Jim Present podcast, his damage, the shortage of drop-goals in Japanese rugby, life in Japan and so forth.


It actually wasn’t his best sport, and after such a loss and feeling so down I used to be so grateful that he gave me the time of day to return and chat. I completely beloved it. Thanks Freddie.

Remaining Rating: NEC Inexperienced Rockets 42-26 Toyota Shuttles

Bonus: Seven days earlier than that I met a few NEC Greeen Rockets gamers on the Inexperienced Eire Pageant 2024 which befell in Yoyogi Park over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend. The gamers had been fly-half Ko Yoshimura and hooker Ren Osawa. I actually loved chatting to each of them, notably the previous whose English is fairly good. Sadly, neither of them had been current through the aforementioned match towards Toyota Shuttles.


Two days previous to that I met up with my good friend Hiromi to observe an exciting finish to a match between Yokohama Canon Eagles and Kubota Spears which noticed the away group come again to grab victory on the loss of life. It was a heartbreaking finish for the Eagles who paid the penalty for his or her dissent which noticed them end the sport with two gamers lower than Spears.

Rewinding again a few weeks earlier than that and I used to be at Chichibunomiya Rugby Floor for the primary time this yr when Yokohama Canon Eagles had been the away group as Mie Honda hosted a sport. Many Honda workers working in Tokyo had been on the sport and given free tickets so I used to be most likely a rarity as I really paid to see this sport!

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