Gerrard hopes to help the Japanese game grow

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Former Wallaby Mark Gerrard is relishing in the chance to mentor a new generation of Japanese Rugby players.

Gerrard is in his fourth season in Japan, playing for the Toyota Industries Shuttles, and said he felt international players had a big responsibility to the sport.

Japan’s national team’s World Cup upset over South Africa has continued to spark the growth of Rugby in Japan, with the word ‘rugby the third-most googled term in the country last year.

Gerrard said that trend would only continue to progress ahead of the country hosting the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

“Only time will tell to see where they are in their progression in Rugby…ability going on from last year’s World Cup,” he said.

“You can see a significant difference in what Eddie Jones did for the national side.”

“Prior to that World Cup they struggled there for a couple of years in progression and development for where they needed to be.

“To be where they were at in World Cup can only be good things for Japanese rugby.

Gerrard said he was making the most of his experience while in Japan to help his teammates improve.

“Seeing international players come over here, I think they need to get on to help develop a lot of the Japanese individuals as well as their clubs and sides,” he said.

“That’s something I’ve really grown into the last couple of years and I really enjoy that.

“I take my time to put in at our particular club do a lot of extras to help them progress, help them get better that’s what I like doing.”

As far as off-field support, Gerrard said the Japanese crowds were unique in their backing of entire codes rather than just local sides.

“I’ve been to a couple of baseball games and I thought the Europeans were quite fanatical in their support of sporting sides but over here, it’s not about supporting a particular team.

“They’re going to definitely support their Japanese side but what they do, they support that current sport.”

At 34, Gerrard thinks the end of this contract, in two more seasons, will likely be his last but wouldn’t rule out a change of heart.

“I’ll probably punch out two more years and hang them up,” he said.

“But I said that two years ago and here I am two years later so only time will tell.”