Sunday 20 October 2019

Gareth Morgan in Shizuoka: 'Japanese shirts seemed to outnumber the green jersey by about 20-1 ...but the Irish fans may be more tardy in arriving'

Niamh and Nora Lalor from south Dublin
Niamh and Nora Lalor from south Dublin
Gareth Morgan

Gareth Morgan

The atmosphere is sizzling nicely in hot and sticky Shizuoka.

Rugby fans completely bought out the tickets for the bullet train from Tokyo this morning as they headed to Ecopa Stadium. But of course the trains still ran on time.

Japanese and Irish fans mingled in huge numbers as they spilled out at Aino Station near the ground.

This is one of the most eagerly anticipated games of the tournament so far with the hosts eager to take on the Irish juggernaut.

Fans of the brave blossoms believe that without talisman Johnny Sexton, the Irish are more vulnerable.

Flying the flag for the men in green were Diarmuid Ryan from Limerick and Declan O’Rourke from Tara in Meath. Now living in Australia, they are over here for a fortnight and reckon today’s atmosphere will be pretty special.

The vibes were good in sweltering heat outside Aino Station where a small village of food tents, beer stalls and rugby-themed games had been set up.

Lian McGillycuddy was soaking up the atmosphere with her young son Sean (18 months). Originally from stillorgan, Dublin, Lian came to Japan eight years ago to teach English and is now living in shizuoka with husband Masa Warashina.

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“This game is super, super important for Japanese fans,” she said.

“But of course Ireland will win,” added her husband.

Lian added: “You never know what’s going to happen because remember Japan versus South Africa last time, and this is a home game with loads of support - no matter what happens it’ll be an awesome day.”

The stadium gates opened at 1.15pm local time and Japanese raced to be first in the queue - not for the bar, but the official merchandise stall.

Japanese shirts seemed to outnumber the green jersey by about 20-1 ...but the Irish fans may be more tardy in arriving.

Hot and thirsty fans were greeted by plenty of hawkers slinging pints of Heineken and mingled together while posing for pictures in front of the impressive stadium.

A traditional Japanese band launched into a boisterous drum and flute spectacular to set the tone for the drama to come.

Among the larger groups of travelling fans were Suzanne, Heather and Richard Thompson from Carlow who arrived early with Phil Rothwell from Wexford and Amy Brennan from Killeshin in Laois.

Having an “amazing time” in Japan were Dunboyne contingent, the Gilmore and Clancy families while several Irish fans are taking fashion pointers from the locals.

Look out for kimonos among the crowd as they seem to have become the rugby accessory of choice over recent days.

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