Rugby: Japan test to bring back memories

The All Black test against Japan tonight will evoke special memories for Mid Canterbury first five Murray Williams.

The Meads Cup winner is a former Japanese international, getting to play out against the All Blacks at the 2011 rugby World Cup in Hamilton.

"It was an amazing experience," Williams said.

"If you can't play for the All Blacks the next best thing is to play against them. We got pumped on the night but just being out there and facing the haka was awesome."

Williams started in the number 10 jersey for Japan in the 2011 Rugby World Cup clash with the All Blacks, which the eventual cup winners won 83-7. Williams got his name on the score sheet converting the try from winger Hirotoki Onozawa.

"We battled hard for 80 minutes and never gave up. We always knew it was going to be tough but the All Blacks were just too good."

Williams expects the same to happen in Tokyo today despite the All Blacks running out an experimental side, absent several frontline players.

"Japan might compete for the first 15-20 minutes but the All Blacks have way too much x-factor.

"I haven't seen Japan play for a while so I'm not too sure exactly how they are going to go or even who is in the team but the All Blacks will be too strong."

The game is being played at the 26,000-capacity Prince Chichibunomiya Stadium , the ground Murray said was where "they always play their test matches", as opposed to one of the much larger capacity venues available which would suggest the match isn't just a money-spinner for the All Blacks.

"It will be good for Japanese rugby, they love the All Blacks.

"The more exposure rugby gets in Japan the better it's going to be especially with them hosting the World Cup soon."

Playing for Japan, against the All Blacks in a World Cup in New Zealand, wasn't something Williams had ever planned on.

"I wasn't getting as much game time in New Zealand as I wanted and the opportunity came up to go to Japan. I played there for three years and became available, and only became available in 2011 and I thought they had their squad all sorted.

"But JK (Sir John Kirwan) rang me up and asked me along to a camp."

He then made his debut against Samoa as Japan won the Pacific Nations in the lead up to the 2011 World Cup and went onto to play in three pool games of the Japan's pool games, getting his only start against the All Blacks.

Will he be back?

Murray Williams was an integral cog in Mid Canterbury's championship run this season, considered by many to be the "best buy" in the Heartland Championship but Williams isn't sure whether he'll be back to help the Hammers defend their title in 2014.

"I haven't even thought about it," Williams said.

"I've loved my time here but we'll wait and see what's happening in a years' time."


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