On retiring at 28, becoming a superstar and Eddie Jones’ coaching
His family clearly have had a major influence. His grandfather was a doctor and his
His family clearly have had a major influence. His grandfather was a doctor and his father, Koujirou, was a dentist.
“Family was a big part of it,” he added. “My dad, mum and my grandfather were a big part of the decision.
“Also, when I have had injuries in my career, the doctors have treated me well throughout those surgeries. That has influenced me a lot as well, how they helped and looked after me. I haven’t decided on the area I want to specialise in, that’s not a decision I have to make yet.”
There is something delightfully old-school in Fukuoka’s decision, just as there was with John’s. The significance now is that while rugby union becomes ever more professional, the game should take note that room should still be afforded to the player who may not see the sport as the be-all and end-all of their career.
A player such as Fukuoka demonstrates they can still burn brightly at the top of the world game, even if their stay there is short. Interestingly Jones, who was Japan head coach when a young Fukuoka was starring for his university side, was key in making that happen.
“It was probably harder making the decision to continue playing when I was younger,” adds Fukuoka.
“I had been going to finish but then I got picked by Eddie Jones for the national team. Once that happened, I made my decision to continue playing rugby, and had to think then about what I wanted to achieve. Before I was selected for Japan, my plan had been to finish once I had ended my time at university.
“Eddie was a big influence. He picked me out of university and taught me to give 100 per cent all of the time. He demands it of you. It was a great thing to learn as a young player at the start of your professional career.
“While I was playing at university I could manage and control my performance. His influence was huge in teaching me to give it all, to get everything out of me that I had, every time, as you have to do, when you play professionally, and the opposition is so strong.”
And yet the star that shone so bright is gone. Ireland and Scotland would not doubt have hoped he would have come to this decision two years’ earlier.
“The tournament (World Cup) itself was amazing, all of Japan supported us, including a lot of people who hadn’t really followed rugby before,” he added. “As you can imagine, such incredible support lifted the team. You could see it everywhere, just amazing.
“To beat Scotland and qualify for the quarter-finals for the first time was special. It was crazy that night, unforgettable, everyone was so happy. The next morning it was back to work though, starting to prepare for the next game.”
Now the world of medicine will be the beneficiary of that work ethic.