Rugby Canada may have not taken home the trophy, but the team earned gold in the hearts of many Japanese locals.
Team Canada were about to face Namibia in their final game of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, but severe weather caused by Typhoon Hagibis devastated the host town of Kamaishi, Japan. Rugby officials had no other choice than to cancel the match.
“The team was obviously very, very disappointed about the cancellation of their final game, but after some time to process it we turned our focus to what we could do for the community,” says Gareth Rees, director of commercial and program relations for Rugby Canada.
Team Canada players decided to spend the rest of their fleeting time abroad helping the recovery efforts in Japan.
Following the cancellation of their match in Kamaishi, @RugbyCanada players headed out to help with recovery efforts, showing the true values of the game.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 13, 2019
Typhoon Hagabis, meaning ‘speed’ in the Filipino language Tagalog, is being recognized as one of the strongest storms to hit the country in years. The death toll from Hagabis is at 72, according to recent numbers.
“Any small bit we could do to help the people affected by the typhoon, it is an amazing community up there and we thank them for their hospitality,” says Gordon McRorie, a scrum half from Calgary.
“We were obviously gutted about the decision to cancel our Namibia game but we wanted to give back in a little way to the people of Kamaishi who had given so much to us.”
— ラグビーワールドカップ (@rugbyworldcupjp) October 13, 2019
Videos published to social media captured the devastation the typhoon caused, with washed-out highways, canceled flights, and evacuees in the hundreds of thousands leaving city centres for safety.
In many parts of small-town Kamaishi in the north-eastern part of the country, mud and debris damaged residential homes and storefronts.
“It was a landslide evacuated community, so we went in and helped shovel out some of the roads so cars could get in,” says Andrew Coe, a winger and full back from Markham, Ontario. “We went into some houses that weren’t properly protected, so they got pretty torn up in the typhoon.”
THANK YOU 🇯🇵
Not how we wanted to end our #RWC2019 but a massive ありがとうございました 🙏 to the host nation & every community visited for the warmth & welcome given to us. Thank you for embracing rugby & its values 🏉🍁 #RugbyCA @rugbyworldcup @rugbyworldcupjp pic.twitter.com/CugcPPZM02
— Rugby Canada (@RugbyCanada) October 14, 2019
Now, Rugby Canada is back on home soil and its members will return to their local rugby clubs.
“I’m really proud to have been a part of the efforts,” says Rees.
“It revealed the true values of our game and this Canadian team to go beyond rugby and give back in whatever small way they could to a community and a country that gave so much to us.”