TOKYO, 16 Oct - Everyone has their highlights from the first four weeks of Rugby World Cup 2019 and the mini-haka performed by children in Kashiwa is a definite favourite among the All Blacks. 

Coach Steve Hansen said: "You can see how much the Japanese have gone into making sure this World Cup is a friendly one and a supportive one for all nations. Kashiwa was where we had our camp and the haka was wonderful. It is something the team holds close to its heart."

Captain Kieran Read agreed: "That was amazing. To see our culture being performed by another culture back to us and to see the look on their faces."

He was less keen on being covered in hot sand, though. "We've got hot water beaches back in New Zealand but this was hot sand and being buried alive, basically. I lasted about 10-15 minutes. It was an interesting experience." 

Got it taped

To tape or not to tape, that is the question. For England scrum-half Willi Heinz, below, the answer is a resounding "yes". Heinz has taken local advice about the problem of players' sweat being transferred to the ball when he is trying to fire out passes to his backs, and started putting tape on the tops of all his fingers. The result? More control with his passing as he prepares for England's quarter-final against Australia.

The Gloucester scrum-half is a convert. "I've quite liked it actually. It seems to give a little more grip on the end of the fingers, which is good. I have noticed a few other players doing it as well, so I will persevere for now.

"We had a young Japanese No.9 training with us - a cracking young lad. I was having a chat with him before training a couple of weeks back, gave it a crack and I'm still doing it."

Speed merchants

Short of lining them all up on a try line and shouting "go", we probably won't know for sure who is the fastest winger at RWC 2019. Kenki Fukuoka and Kotaro Matsushima, Japan's "Ferraris" according to coach Jamie Joseph, must be in the frame and it promises to be a blistering contest against South Africa's fliers on Sunday.

"We've definitely got a few Ferraris out there as well," said Springboks full-back Willie le Roux, referring to  Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi. And he should know, since he includes the jet-heeled Bryan Habana among his former team-mates. Was Habana the fastest of all time? With a personal best of 10.4sec in the 100m, he would be a fair bet. Just take a look...

Paint it red

Wales will not lack support in their quarter-final against France in Oita on Sunday, if this display at nearby Beppu is anything to go by. 

Wales, who beat Fiji in the same stadium last week, obviously made a big impression on the 46 children whose artwork is displayed in Beppu station. Having a red dragon (Y Ddraig Goch in Welsh) on your national flag must also be a big attraction for budding artists.

Daily bulletin

Elma visits a cat cafe and former All Black back Israel Dagg answers some quickfire questions in the latest edition of Rugby World Cup Daily.

Wishful thinking

Spotted at the famous Meiji Jingu Shinto shrine near Shibuya: two Emas, the small wooden tablets on which visitors write their wishes. The tablets are then hung on hooks around a camphor tree for the kami (gods) to receive.

We aren't certain how long these Emas have been there but you have doubtless spotted that while many experts expect one of these wishes to come true, the other definitely will not. 

If New Zealand and England do meet, it can only be in the first semi-final, in Yokohama, on Saturday week. Provided, of course, that they first overcome Ireland and Australia, respectively, in the quarters. Maybe next time.

Gone but not forgotten

Our statisticians have digested all the pool-stage data to come up with the best XV, plus replacements, from the 12 eliminated nations. For full analysis and the key facts behind their selections, click here.


No fewer than 13,000 volunteers have been helping to make Rugby World Cup 2019 a wonderful experience for some 500,000 overseas visitors. 

Half the "vollies" had never seen a game of rugby before the tournament started. Their collective name is Team No-Side, an old rugby expression referees shouted to signal the end of a match. It has survived in Japan and has come to mean that everyone should put aside their differences when the final whistle sounds.

Two-thirds of the volunteers speak English; the rest get by with a smile and a high-five, something they put to good use with jubilant Ireland supporters after their match against Samoa in Fukuoka, as this clip demonstrates.

Stat of the day

New Zealand have conceded fewer tries than any other team at RWC 2019 - one. 

RNS ns/cj/ajr