It’s a hard old game. That’s been a familiar refrain from coaches to players and commentators to fans over the past six weeks of the Rugby World Cup. Few can debate that either, and this hard old game is not one where you will age particularly well. The players who were on the pitch for the final on Saturday when South Africa beat England 32-12 will carry the physical residue of this match for the rest of their life. FULL-TIME in #RWCFinal @EnglandRugby 12 @Springboks 32 SOUTH AFRICA ARE CHAMPIONS OF THE WORLD 1995 #WebbEllisCup 2007 #WebbEllisCup 2019 #WebbEllisCup This means more than just rugby. Much, much more #RWC2019 #ENGvRSA #RWCYokohama pic.twitter.com/Lk6jYQGmNx — Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) November 2, 2019 But no matter, they will risk it all for team and country because rugby players are some of the most stoic and virtuous athletes you will ever have the pleasure of encountering. They can be raw and brutal because the sport is both raw and brutal. However, few sports have such a deep rooted code of respect for their game and their opponents as rugby. It’s such an unshakeable bond, that even their fans have taken the oath. In six weeks, I can honestly say that despite endless scrums together over an ocean or two of lager and ale, I never so much as heard a voice raised between opposing fans. It’s frankly uncanny and goes a long way towards explaining why the Hong Kong Sevens, a feast of debauchery, is largely free of crowd violence. It’s most certainly not a hard old game off the pitch and that was made quite clear when I shared a lift with the All Blacks’ Kieran Reid. He was humble and engaging and you would have had absolutely no idea he was the captain of one of the most storied and successful teams in the world. Pure joy for the @Springboks as they become the first team to win a Rugby World Cup after losing a match in the pool stages #ENGvRSA #RWC2019 #RWCFinal pic.twitter.com/tjORyicbCQ — Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) November 2, 2019 When he started asking me questions about myself, I wanted to tell him, listen man that is not how it usually works around big time sportsmen, the majority of whom don’t have a curious bone in their body. But that’s why there are really no rock star players in rugby, only rock star teams. Rugby World Cup 2019: ‘everyone is Japanese right now’ after huge win over Ireland That’s the game and it’s small wonder that rugby has found a soulmate in Japan. This is a country that puts a premium on Wa, the concept of communal teamwork. No one is bigger than the country or the community in Japan, which is the primary reason why the Japanese have been killing their guests with kindness. Of the 400,000 or so foreign visitors who came here during the World Cup, every single one of them has been truly blown away by the reception from the locals. The past six weeks has been an education in both this country and this game and even the most cynical among us have been touched by both. However, as far as the game goes there is much to learn if, according to the oft-repeated mantra of World Rugby, they want to grow their sport. But saying it and doing it are two different things. Incredible scenes as @Springboks bench goes wild after winning Rugby World Cup 2019 #ENGvRSA #RWC2019 #RWCFinal pic.twitter.com/zU3ssS68Rt — Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) November 2, 2019 Since day one World Rugby has described this as an Asian World Cup, but it’s Asian in time zone only. Japan is the only country in Asia that has been in a World Cup and after asking World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper why there was no talk of a second qualifying spot for Asia, I am still waiting for an answer six weeks later. It did not necessarily have to be Hong Kong either, it could have been similarly ranked Korea and perhaps even the inducement of playing a match in Seoul would have been enough incentive to raise their game. They could not have done any worse than the five or six bottom feeders. Rugby World Cup: all hail England as fans in Japan left in awe after huge win over New Zealand Thanks to World Rugby’s continued lack of vision, they missed a golden opportunity to grow the game here because it’s likely that this event won’t be back in Asia for at least a dozen years or more. Unless of course they take a page out of Fifa’s playbook and award China a future World Cup. After all, as bad as China’s national team is, they are better at rugby than Qatar is at football but the oil rich gulf country will still be competing at football’s 2022 World Cup. And now, en France – on to France – where overarching Japanese hospitality will be replaced by the classic Gallic shrug of indifference. But despite their seeming differences, the Japanese and French have more in common than most know. Both are proud, stubborn and protective of their culture to a fault. And while the Japanese are a tad more diplomatic, both abhor any attempts by foreigners to try to change them. There is also one other thing the hosts of the last and the next Rugby World Cup agree on. It’s a hard old game.