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Japan’s rugby team turns to Backstreet Boys for inspiration

It was an unexpected question and an even more unexpected answer. After an hour of line-and-length stuff about their World Cup experience and their hopes of matching Ireland’s forward power on Saturday, Japan’s press conference was just drawing to a close when full-back Ryohei Yamanaka was asked a quick, supplementary question.

Did the players have a particular song they used to get themselves pumped up, ready for battle? Yamanaka considered the question. “Hai! [Yes]” he replied. “Backstreet Boys, I Want It That Way.”

It made for an incongruous mental image; Japan’s squad, shoulder to shoulder, gathered in the dressing room at Shizuoka’s Ecopa Stadium on Saturday belting out: “Am I your fire?/Your one desire?/Yes, I know it’s too late/But I want it that way!”

Whether it will help them to see off the likes of Ireland’s Cian Healy and James Ryan remains to be seen. But one suspects Roy Keane would be unimpressed by the song choice. The Irishman, famously, was aghast on arriving at Sunderland a few years ago to find that the players enjoyed listening to Dancing Queen by Abba last thing before leaving the dressing room. Writing in his autobiography The Second Half, Keane spat: “They were going out to play a match, men versus men, testosterone levels were high. You’ve got to hit people at pace. F—ing Dancing Queen. It worried me.” It does beg the question, what is the best “men versus men,” pro-testosterone dressing-room music?

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