The Courier & Advertiser (Fife Edition)
Kirkcaldy forward on Japan venture
Kirkcaldy’s Murray Douglas has never been afraid of taking himself out of his comfort zone during his rugby career and is enjoying his time with Yamaha Jubilo in the Japanese Top League.
Rugby in Japan has been growing ever since their national team famously defeated South Africa in the Rugby World Cup in 2015.
They then hosted the showpiece competition in late 2019 – the home side of course beating Scotland to knock them out at the pool stage – and the Top League has grown as a product off the back of that.
Legends like Kieran Read, the former New Zealand captain who won 127 caps for his country and is playing for Toyota Verblitz alongside Michael Hooper, who has 105 Australia caps, are just some of the big names making Japan their home.
There are many South Africans playing in the Top League while a number of Brits are there, too.
Three Scots – Greig Laidlaw, Sam Thomson and Douglas – are among that group with the regular season coming to an end and the play-offs about to start.
“The decision to come out to Japan and play was based around it just being a great life opportunity,” Douglas, the 31-year-old second-row, said.
“The culture over here is totally different and I wanted to savour that and live and work here because these kinds of opportunities do not come around every day.
“Obviously, things here are a bit different than they would be normally because of the pandemic which means that my fiancee Megan is back in Scotland, but I have immersed myself in the rugby side of things and everyone at the Yamaha Jubilo club has been great.
“The foreign players who have joined the club have all helped each other to settle in while the Japanese players have really helped us out and the squad is extremely close-knit as a result.”
Douglas, who started his rugby life at the local club in Kirkcaldy before spells with Aberdeen Grammar and Heriot’s as well as earning Scotland Club XV caps, has been on his travels since 2014.
“I had just qualified as a lawyer then and Megan had qualified as a doctor, so
we headed off for a year travelling in Australia back then,” Douglas, a former Balwearie High School pupil, explained.
“We moved a bit about and then we settled in Melbourne where I was playing club rugby before making the NRC team.
“That then led to me being asked to do a pre-season with the Melbourne Rebels and that is where my professional rugby career really took off.
“I was lucky enough to play for the Rebels, the Hurricanes (in Wellington, New Zealand) and the Brumbies (in Canberra, Australia) in SuperRugby and then had a spell with Edinburgh Rugby, too.
“Having been brought up in Fife, playing for Edinburgh was something I was proud to do, but I am
also proud that I have played in different environments and learnt in them all – and I am continuing to learn in Japan.”
The Top League season in Japan ends late in May and then Douglas will be back in Scotland because he and Megan are due to get married in early July.
“It is good that after the season I get some time off before returning for my second year in Japan and it will be good to get back and see Megan and my family and friends and get married,” Douglas said.
“Before then I will be doing my best to help Jubilo finish this season as well as possible.”
Douglas should be back from a concussion in time to play in the last-16 match away to Kubota Spears on April 24.