Some of you may have been wondering what the All France team has been doing during all these months, and no, the answer is not (only) drinking beer… Training has resumed, and we have even participated in a touch rugby tournament in the mountains of Hakuba, in Nagano prefecture.
Ian Miller, the president of the Hakuba Huskies team, as well as the owner of the Panorama hotel and the Hakuba Taproom, kindly invited us to participate in his “tambo” rugby tournament, whilst staying at his hotel. This year, 10 of us accepted the invitation and we are all happy we made the trip there.
For those not familiar with “Tambo” (Japanese for “rice field”) rugby, it is a muddy version of touch rugby, where players splash about in flooded rice fields, and boy did we get our hands dirty!
The games last 7 minutes, with 4 players per team. The point system is rather original: a try scored by a man is worth 1 point, while a diving try scored by a man is worth 2 points. Women’s and children’s tries count as double. For the forwards reading these lines, please contact the nearest hospital to prevent or cure any brain injury.
The Trip and Arrival to Hakuba
8 of us made the trip from Tokyo to Hakuba by car, thanks to captain Matthieu, who is the best! The other 2 took the train.
It all started on Friday evening when we gathered at 7pm after work, defying the rain that has been pouring on Japan for weeks. Surprisingly, everyone was on time and well-prepared. Our bags were packed with the sports clothes that would get dirty the next day, our hopes, and our beers for the 4-hour journey.
During the trip, while Captain Matthieu was silently driving, the rest of the crew kept busy joking around, singing, and even drinking. The weekend was already legendary, our merry band the Argonauts to Matthieu’s Jason.
Once we arrived in Hakuba, we were welcomed by Ian, we checked in, and we started drinking with the other teams who arrived earlier and had had the grace to get the party warmed up in time for our grand entrance. After everyone went to bed, the bravest members of the French crew decided to try the in-house onsen and to have more drinks. Those who stayed up late already knew that all the fun that was had that night was going to be paid back double on the field the next day.
Yep. This is the field on which we played !
The next morning, we woke up, had our nutritious breakfast and then went back to our room for a nap until 11am. Then, we headed to the rice field where the other teams were getting ready for the trench war, and the organizers were preparing the barbecue.
All France presented 2 teams of 4 players each, although everyone played in both teams.
The competition started with an easy win with many tries for All France A, although some shoes were lost, swallowed by the gluttonous and unforgiving mud, which also made short work of our hopes of ever being clean again. Our Takadanobaba touch rugby training sessions proved useful, and our defense stood strong. After the victory was secured, we let Jess play and we were amazed by her speed, pugnacity and defense skills. She annihilated all of the opponent’s chances with her great jumping skills. Even if it was the first time for her to play rugby that day, she became one of our best assets. Thank you for joining us, Jess!
All France B lost their first game against YCAC after a very tough and uncertain game. The final score was 2-0 (a diving try only), which is quite frustrating as we had many chances to score but were unable to convert them into points. With a better strategy, we would probably have won. Next year, we will be ready.
Therefore after the first game, All France A qualified for the final round of the Cup, while all France B was competing in the Plate Competition. In the end, this was the best outcome as we had a team in both competitions.
The Plate Competition games were fun as the level was a little bit lower so we won the games quite easily. We did not keep track of all the actions and the score, but we remember that many diving tries were scored by Hadrien, Teddy, Valentin, Matthieu, Quentin, Hamid, James, and even Fabien (thanks to Hamid and his tactical skills), alongside guest star Jess. In the end, we won the Plate final 12-0 with a climactic try by Jess that counted for 4 points.
The Cup was much harder, and we had to play against teams that used to playing both touch Rugby or Rugby Union. We qualified to the semifinals after a hard but jubilating win (4-2) against the Hakuba Huskies, the hosts of the competition. In the semifinal, we lost 4-2 after a litigious (French fair play) try against the future winners of the competition, a team of Australian snowboarders. Later on, they told us that we were their hardest opponents !
Although the result is not the most important part of the trip, it was nice to see that the team played well. We will come back next year, and we will win both the Plate and the Cup. For that, like this year we will need a strong squad, and to work hard on our cardio, because playing in the mud is extremely tiring. A controversial view, currently peddled by some scientists on the fringe of the mainstream, also believe our efforts may have been hampered by the colossal quantities of alcohol consumed the night before.
After the games, we tried to clean ourselves a bit in the river before the hosts drove us to a local onsen. We tried to get rid of the mud, but it proved to be even harder than the games.
Rugby players are sometimes pictured as pigs frolicking in the mud, which is not always fair, but based on this image, it seems sometimes it is spot on!
In the evening, we all went to a Mexican restaurant, where we drank beers and pitchers of margarita, sang all the French and English songs we knew (including La Marseillaise), and then joined the other teams at the hotel for more drinks and celebration, even converting everyone to the paquito!
The final day was a little bit less eventful, although 5 of our most intrepid members decided to go on a hike, and visited Happo-one, a mountain that hosted the Olympic Games in 1998. After taking 3 different cable cars, and climbing for 30 minutes, we saw the eternal snows, the yellow lis flowers and of course, the Happo-Ike lake. It was definitely worth the effort, and concluded beautifully this great weekend. Let’s go back next year!
The hike was a nice conclusion of this great weekend.