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一流のミカタ : 第75回 エディージャパン、いざ出陣! 〜ラグビーW杯〜
投稿日時: 2015-09-19 11:30:00

 4年に1度のラグビーW杯がいよいよ始まる。第1回大会から8大会連続出場となる日本代表(世界ランキング13位)は、予選プールBで南アフリカ代表(同3位)、スコットランド代表(同10位)、サモア代表(同12位)、米国代表(同15位)と対戦する。各プール上位2カ国・地域が決勝トーナメントへコマを進める。2012年4月から日本の指揮を執るエディー・ジョーンズヘッドコーチ(HC)は、今大会での目標を「ベスト8」に置く。


 エディージャパンにはこれまでで最高の期待が高まる。エディーHC就任以降のジャパンは、13年6月に強豪ウェールズ代表に初勝利し、同年11月からは日本歴代最多となるテストマッチ11連勝を飾った。世界ランキングも一時は史上最高の9位にまで上昇。キャプテンのFLリーチ・マイケル(東芝)、バイスキャプテンのHO堀江翔太(パナソニック)、SH田中史朗(パナソニック)ら世界最高峰のリーグ「スーパーラグビー」でプレーした選手もいる。

 だが、過去の8大会での成績を見れば、目標達成は決して容易なことではない。日本は91年イングランド大会でのジンバブエ戦(52−8)を最後に1勝(2分け21敗)しかしていないのだ。4年前のニュージーランド大会ではジョン・カーワンHCの采配が物議をかもした。初戦を落とした後のニュージーランド(オールブラックス)戦で、カーワンは主力を温存し、控えを中心としたメンバーで戦った。5日後のトンガ戦、11日後のカナダ戦に備えるためだ。

 その賭けは実らなかった。オールブラックス戦は7対83と大敗。チームの士気は低下し、トンガにも圧倒された。カナダにも引き分け、0勝3敗1分け。大会後、カーワンは「勝ちにこだわり過ぎて、それが重圧になった」と言って唇を噛んだ。

 それについて、エディーは辛辣な評価を口にした。
「ワールドカップは4年に1度しかありません。毎試合勝ちたいという強い思いがなければ戦い抜けません。残念ながらカーワンHCは、大会が始まる前に“目標は2勝です”と言った。これは最初から“2試合負けますよ”と言っているようなもの。日本が弱い国ならば、なおさら“どの試合も勝つ”という強い意志と具体的な目標がなければいけません。日本代表は4年に1度のチャンスを意義あるものにすることができませんでした」

 ジャパンウェイを貫き、強敵を倒す

 そして、続ける。
「日本人選手は諸外国の選手と比べると相対的に小さい。これをハンディキャップと見る向きもありますが、逆に言うと他のチームは日本のラグビーを真似できない。つまり、体が小さいことは、むしろ強みなんです。問題は体の小ささをどういかすかということです。スピードと頭脳、スキル。ここを伸ばさなければ世界に伍して戦うことはできません。フィットネスを高め、正しいテクニックを身につけることで、そうした問題は解決していきます」
 エディーはあくまでもジャパンウェイを貫く構えだ。

 その意味で言えば、南アフリカとの初戦が日本の力を測る絶好の機会と言えよう。W杯2度の優勝経験はニュージーランド、オーストラリアと並ぶ。エディーもかつてチームアドバイザーとして、2007年W杯優勝を経験している。勝手知ったる相手だ。先日発表されたばかりのスターティングメンバーで比較すると、FWの平均身長は日本が187センチに対し、南アフリカは190センチを超える。

 難敵相手にどう戦うのか? そこで注目したいのは、一瞬にして置き去りにするスピードと、切れのあるステップワークが武器のWTB松島幸太朗(サントリー)だ。ジンバブエ人の父と日本人の母を持つ松島は高校卒業後、「スーパーリーグ」に所属する南アフリカのシャークスの下部組織で2年半にわたってフィジカルとスキルを磨いた。

 ラグビーの本場での武者修行が松島を一回り大きくさせたのは言うまでもない。振り返って、松島は語る。
「大柄な選手が多いので、コンタクトはすごく強いな、という印象を受けました。スピードでは勝負できても、当たり負けすることが多かった。そこでウエートトレーニングに打ち込み、肉体改造を試みました。僕が大きい相手に対し、どう攻めればいいか。どう間合いをはかればいいか。それを体で覚えることのできた貴重な時間でした」

 22歳で迎える初めてのW杯。褐色のフィニッシャーの疾走を見逃してはならない。

 4年後への布石を打て

 エディーは大会直前、「日本のラグビーを変える気持ちで戦ってきた。イングランドでは究極の試練が待っている。ベスト8に入る」と決意表明した。指揮官がイングランドに連れて行った31名。ほとんどがエディージャパンになって以来、定期的に招集されてきた選手たちだ。今年に入ってからは4月から宮崎で合宿を重ね、チームの完成度は高まっている。

 24年前に一つ勝ったきりのジャパンが挑む決勝トーナメントへの道。4年後の日本開催につなげるためにも、この高く険しい壁を越えなくてはならない。主将のリーチは「日本ラグビーを変えられるのは選手だけ。最高の舞台で頑張りたい」と意気込みを示せば、チーム最年少のWTB藤田慶和(早稲田大)も「日本の歴史を変える大チャンス」と鼻息は荒い。

 田中が「4年前は申し訳ない思いをさせてしまった。3勝が目標だが、ひとつひとつのプレーで夢や希望を与えられるようにしたい」と語気を強めれば、堀江も「今後の日本ラグビー界のためにも結果を残して胸を張って帰りたい」と秘めたる思いを口にした。

 世界を驚かせる瞬間が刻刻と近づいている。

ラグビーW杯、日本戦含む全試合を生中継!
 過去の名勝負や直前のテストマッチなど、関連番組も続々と放送中!



【日本戦、生中継予定】 放送はすべてJ SPORTS

9月19日(土) 24:15〜 vs.南アフリカ
9月23日(水) 22:00〜 vs.スコットランド
10月3日(土) 22:00〜 vs.サモア
10月11日(日) 27:30〜 vs.アメリカ

※このコーナーではスカパー!の数多くのスポーツコンテンツの中から、二宮清純が定期的にオススメをナビゲート。ならではの“見方”で、スポーツをより楽しみたい皆さんの“味方”になります。

◎バックナンバーはこちらから

>>日本時間20日に行われた初戦の結果はこちら


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