Panasonic Wild Knights

Ota, Japan

Japanese rugby showed just what it is made of these days when the Brave Blossoms shocked the Springboks 34-32 in their opening match of the 2015 world cup.

Unfortunately for Japan, their fairytale ended in the pool stages despite the team losing just one of their four matches. That cruel fate didn’t diminish the impression that the country that will host the 2019 world cup is a rugby nation on the rise.

Coached by former Crusaders and Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, the Wild Knights are one of Japan’s premier clubs. Formerly known as Sanyo (the team was sold to Panasonic in 2012), the Knights are have won Japan’s Top League five times and were crowned All Japan champions in 2008 and 2011.

The Knights’ 2016/17 squad included David Pocock, Berrick Barnes and Highlanders cult hero halfback Fumiaka Tanaka, while Sonny Bill Williams and Jaque Fourie also turned out for the club in the past.