Wales props pick up tips from sumo wrestlers ahead of clash with Japan
In an attempt to stay ahead of the pack, Six Nations champions Wales are taking scrummaging tips from sumo wrestlers.
The Welsh are midway through a two-test series against Japan and are eyeing ways to improve ahead of the second match in Tokyo today after narrowly avoiding a first defeat by 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 - said he 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 told WalesOnline. "There have 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 will win his fifth cap for the match in Tokyo, with his opportunities limited by the abundance of riches that Wales boast at loosehead, where Gethin Jenkins and Paul James are currently 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 sumo training stable in Tokyo this 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 organised crime syndicates, interest in sumo wrestling has dwindled to record lows. However, 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," he added. "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."