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Warren Gatland

Wales receive warm welcome in Japan

Wales head coach Warren Gatland and captain Alun Wyn Jones thanked the people of Kitakyushu for a warm welcome as they began their Rugby World Cup journey on Japanese soil. 

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Gatland and his 31-man playing squad arrived in the southern Japanese city on Saturday to hundreds of people at the airport. They then took part in a ceremony where Kitakyushu school children sang famous Welsh hymn Calon Lân. Gatland’s players responded with their version of Ar Lan y Môr.

The Welsh Rugby Union started a World Cup legacy project in Kitakyushu two years ago and the city is covered in Welsh flags and pictures of Gatland’s players. It is a remarkable sight.

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“The welcome we’ve had so far in Kitakyushu has been fantastic. We had a great night last night with a bit of a welcome ceremony. It was brilliant,” said Gatland.

“The weather is great and we’re really excited about being here to get in a good week of training ahead of that first game against Georgia.

“Kitakyushu have embraced Wales, the team, and the culture and they have even put the red dragon on their fire engines. I know they wanted to be a host city for the World Cup.

“In fairness to the Welsh Rugby Union, particularly Ryan Jones and his team, they’ve been over here on a number of occasions running coaching sessions to form a relationship with the community.

“We heard on Saturday night that there has been a significant uptake in the number of youngsters playing rugby in Kitakyushu and the surrounding districts. We see that as being incredibly positive.

“For the players to see all the flags and posters around town has been quite humbling. It’s brilliant that the city has got behind us. Ironically there are so many similarities between Kitakyushu and Wales in terms of the history of the mining industry and the ports.

“There is definitely a relationship there and hopefully we can continue to build on that.”

Wales captain Jones added: “We were lined up to sing Calon Lân as well, but we had to have a quick change to our itinerary because the children sang it so well.

“The welcome we’ve had has been phenomenal in particular the school children singing. It has been great so far.”

VIDEO: Watch Wales’ arrival in Japan here

Wales will train in Kitakyushu until Thursday prior to their World Cup opener with Georgia in Toyota on September 23.

Gatland revealed locks Cory Hill (leg) and Adam Beard (appendix) are unlikely to face Georgia. Beard is set to arrive in Japan on Thursday after having his appendix removed.

Gatland believes his team are building nicely for the start of the tournament. In Kitakyushu Wales are able to walk from their hotel to training and back.

Temperatures are touching 30 degrees with humidity at around 76 per cent and similar conditions are expected all over Japan in the early stages of the World Cup.

“The great thing about the Japanese is they’re incredibly well organised. I’m sure this tournament will build as it goes from week to week,” said Gatland.

“We’re all sitting here waiting and training and everyone can’t wait to get started.

“We’ve trained incredibly hard in our build-up.

“We haven’t shown much in our play so far, but now the focus is really on competition rugby. We feel it’s important to get off to a good start and if we do that hopefully we can qualify for the quarter-finals. It’s going to be tough for us, but if we do that it’s then one game at a time.

“There is a lot of confidence and self belief in this side.”

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Wales receive warm welcome in Japan
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Wales receive warm welcome in Japan
Wales receive warm welcome in Japan
Wales receive warm welcome in Japan
Wales receive warm welcome in Japan
Wales receive warm welcome in Japan
Wales receive warm welcome in Japan
Wales receive warm welcome in Japan
Wales receive warm welcome in Japan
Wales receive warm welcome in Japan
Wales receive warm welcome in Japan
Wales receive warm welcome in Japan
Wales receive warm welcome in Japan
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