Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Hirotoki Onozawa to stay involved with the Japan national team


The on field section of the international career of the most capped Japanese player of all time Hirotoki Onozawa appears to be coming to an end following injury problems. However coach Eddie Jones still wants him as part of the squad.

The veteran wing was retained by Eddie Jones after the World Cup despite being aged 34 and finished important tries in Japan’s wins away to Romania and Georgia in 2012, and in 2013 he broke Yukio Motoki's all time caps record for Japan.

Since then however, Onozawa has been persistently hit by injuries. He missed Japan’s November tests, then after making a try scoring return for his club Suntory Sungoliath picked up another serious season ending injury.

Now aged 36 these injuries appear likely to be bringing to an end Onozawa's international career which began back in 2001. He was not named in Japan’s squad this year and the Cherry Blossoms have their captain Toshiaki Hirose, as well as some other promising options including youngsters Kenki Fukuoka and Yoshikazu Fujita in the wing positions.

However Onozawa still may find his way to the 2015 World Cup in some capacity, the wing is well liked in Japanese rugby and has been praised by coach Eddie Jones as one of the most "diligent" he has come across. He was with the team in a non playing role when Japan faced the All Blacks last November and Jones Australian has now more formally recruited him to work with the team during their next camp as a mentor, where he will be looking to support the young wingers mentioned above.

(Video: Onozawa's 70 metre finish against Wales during the
2007 World Cup. Over the course of his career Onozawa
scored 6 tries from 10 starts against Tier 1 opposition, and
another 4 from 6 against Samoa.)

1 comment :

  1. The amazing thing about Onozawa is that he didn't come through a top school or university and not even from a rugby-popular area. He has been a real gem from an area Japanese rugby wouldn't normally expect to get a top player from. While there are players in the Japan team that come from the Japan Top League Yamaha team based in Shizuoka like Sau and Goromaru, I'm struggling to think of any other Japan player that's originally from there. I'm pretty sure he's either the only one ever or at least the first one for a very, very long time.

    His longtime wing partner Kosuke Endo also came from a small town in the Northern island of Hokkaido, again an area which very rarely if ever gets or has had a Japan national team player. Again another of the best Japanese players of recent times, lock Hitoshi Ono came from a non-rugby area, and a non-rugby background as well since he only started playing rugby at university, and his uni team like Onozawa's was a mediocre one, not one of the big guns. It's very funny how some of Japan's best players have come from unexpected avenues!

    Regarding the future, two players of the Junior Japan team that played in the Pacific Cup are from Kagoshima at the south of Japan and again that's not an area that has provided many, if any, Japan national team players.