Young Okinawan rugby player selected in top New Zealand high school team

Young Okinawan rugby player selected in top New Zealand high school team

Kenichiro Kuwae playing for St. Bede’s College 1st XV against St. Thomas’s College on April 6, 2012 in Christchurch, New Zealand.

May 6, 2012 Ryukyu Shimpo original English article and photograph by Mark Ealey

Koza High School third year student Kenichiro Kuwae (17 years-old), of Awase, Okinawa City has been selected in one of New Zealand’s top secondary school teams.

Kuwae is studying at St. Bede’s College, which is located in Christchurch in New Zealand’s South Island. A key player in the Koza High School team that represented Okinawa Prefecture at the last Secondary School National Tournament held at Hanazono in East Osaka, Kuwae will study and play rugby at St. Bede’s College in its international rugby program for about six months. Kuwae’s junior at Koza High School, tighthead prop Taku Touma is also in Christchurch for one month.

St. Bede’s College has dominated South Island secondary school rugby for several years and has represented the South Island in the National Top Four competition for four consecutive years, being runners-up in 2009.

A flyhalf in Okinawa, at St. Bede’s College Kuwae plays fullback. The College’s 1st XV coach and deputy rector Gerry Davidson said, “Kenichi has already made his mark with his brave defense, his intelligent and accurate kicking and handling skills. He played particularly well for us in our game against the strong Australian school, St. Joseph’s Nudgee College, which we won 34-28. We have had many excellent Japanese players playing for us in recent years, including current 7s star Yoshikazu Fujita, and Kenichiro also shows great promise.”

Kuwae commented, “For me, the key difference between New Zealand and Japanese rugby is that the tempo of the game here is really fast. The games here don’t seem to be as stop-start as they can be in Japan. The level of communication on the field here is really impressive and that helps generate cohesion in the team.” With regard to his playing in the 1st XV he said, “I’ve really noticed the individual strength and skills of the players at St. Bede’s. The local players have all been really good and have accepted me without hesitation. While I’m here, I’m going to try to become physically bigger and stronger and communicate more effectively on the field.”

This year St. Bede’s College aims to claim that elusive number one spot in New Zealand and Kenichiro Kuwae will be a key part of that effort.

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