FIJI’S FALTERING FEET

Uruguay shocked everybody with a performance full of heart to take their encounter with Fiji 30-27, but the islanders were the architects of their own downfall as their kicking badly let them down.

They outscored Los Teros by five tries to three (which would normally be enough to win a game), but their conversion and penalty kicking was woeful, leaving them facing up to the likelihood of an early exit from the competition.

Kicking a rugby ball is not easy. If you get the chance, try to placekick through the posts of your nearest rugby field. The technique needs to be perfect and on top of that you need an enormous amount of power in your legs.

Dropkicking is even harder, as the ball can bounce in all manners of directions off an uneven field. That’s why having a master of the art is so important to any side harbouring ambitions of progressing to the latter stages of an international tournament.

Jonny Wilkinson’s kicking technique was key to England’s 2003 World Cup victory and his methodical, controlled build-up routine revolutionised the art. Exceptional kicking has now become the rule rather than the exception, which is why Fiji were punished so harshly for their waywardness.

In Japan, what you do with your feet is also important. I once heard a story of a teacher who was dismissed from a kindergarten for using their feet to move heavy boxes around, which I learnt is a big faux pas. Doing so is considered both disrespectful and rude.

However, that faux pas is nowhere near as big as wearing shoes in the house, a custom which Japan shares with many other Asian countries. Japan goes even further by having special bathroom shoes, which you should change into when using the facilities.

I’m fully on board with the no shoes indoors concept and now it seems positively weird to me when I see Western shows in which people wear their shoes indoors. Leaving aside the debatable health benefits, it’s simply more comfortable.

So why not go barefoot for today’s matches? Italy vs Canada is the antipasto, which Italy should take comfortably, assuming they’re not too tired. The main dish is England vs USA and there’s always a lot riding on this historic rivalry, whatever the sport.

Will North America shock Europe today as the USA and Canada make their tournament bows? I wouldn’t bet on it.

Yesterday’s Match
Uruguay 30-27 Fiji (Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, Kamaishi)

Today’s Matches
Italy vs Canada (1645 JST) (Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium (Fukuoka)
England vs USA (1945 JST) (Kobe Misaki Stadium, Kobe)

Expression of the day
靴を脱いで下さい (kutsu wo nuide kudasai)
Which means…
Please take your shoes off.

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