The NTT Shining Arcs were happy to get away from Panasonic and the famous Sonny Boy Williams with a 25-22 victory last week, and that’s a load off their minds as they move to 1-1.
USA captain Todd Clever left the game late in the second half with a worrying foot injury (he was seen on the sidelines on crutches), but X-rays and a doctor’s examination showed no damage, and he will be back on the pitch for the Shining Arcs this weekend against Yamaha.
That’s good news for NTT, as Clever is one of their star players. Being one of the stars is a new situation for Clever, who has usually spent his professional time being the player with something to prove. Now he is one of the leaders.
“Coming into this year, [the club] told me what they wanted from me and Alesana Tuilagi,” Clever told RUGBYMag.com. We were the two big signings for the club. Whatever team I play for I am going to give all I have for them.”
But, yes, the expectations are different. And the fans are loud. Based in Ichikawa in Chiba Prefecture east of Tokyo, NTT Communications is a company team, and NTT employees come out for the games every weekend, sending as many as 50,000 to cheer for their team.
“There is a lot of support,” enthused Clever. “I have been welcomed with open arms and I am Happy to be part of the improving club.”
And improvement is something they need to show. The victory over Panasonic is a move in the right direction, but NTT right now is now 9th in the 14-team league. Clever said the Shining Arcs way of playing is more conservative than at Suntory, where games often saw the two teams combine for more than 90 points. NTT Communications is playing a territory game, and that might be good for Clever, as that’s more of a test match approach.
The key, though, is winning.
“Our first two rounds both the teams we faced have made the semifinals for the past several years,” said Clever. “It's good to start the season with a 1-1 record.”