In an attempt to stay ahead of the pack, Six Nations champions Wales have been taking scrummaging tips from sumo wrestlers.
The Welsh were midway through a two-Test series against Japan last week and were eyeing ways to improve ahead of the second match in Tokyo yesterday after narrowly avoiding a first-ever defeat to the Brave Blossoms in Osaka last weekend.
Prop Rhys Gill, one of a number of squad members enjoying a rare start, with the bulk of the first team away on the British and Irish Lions tour, believes the roly-poly athletes of Japan’s ancient sport have skills that would translate to rugby.
“The power comes from their legs, but there’s loads of technique with it as well, with regards to where to hit each other and stuff,” the 26-year-old was quoted as saying by WalesOnline.
“There have been some heavy old collisions. It’s pretty much like scrummaging. There is definitely stuff we could learn from them, with regards to their binding and where they hit each other. They’ve got to get it right, otherwise they lose that battle straight away,” Gill added.
Gill won his fifth cap in the Test against Japan in Tokyo, with his opportunities limited by the abundance of riches Wales boast at loosehead with Gethin Jenkins and Paul James ahead of him. The duo have helped the Welsh scrum become one of the best in the world.
Keen to pick up any tips he can to boost his chances of selection, Gill went to a training stable in Tokyo last week along with fellow prop Ryan Bevington, who wore the traditional loincloth and took on the wrestlers.
Tarnished by scandals involving drug use, bout-fixing, violence and alleged links to Japanese organized crime, interest in sumo has dwindled to record lows, but Gill remained impressed by what he had seen.
“You think the sumo wrestlers are not athletes, but they are actually machines. Fair play to them, they are unbelievable,” the Saracens prop said.
“They are big strong guys and they work ridiculously hard. One guy was crying at the end, he was actually in tears and the coach was still hitting him with a stick, shouting at him and telling him to get up,” Gill added.