Rugby players and supporters love food and drink. And with the Rugby World Cup about to begin in Japan comes the opportunity for originality for caterers of all kinds.
Homebound supporters not only want to enjoy the games with a beer; but can also be tempted by finer dining as well as the more traditional delights.
When one thinks of rugby forwards, the delicacy and fine detail shown by Phil Vickery and Martin Bayfield on Masterchef isn’t the first thought. But given the importance of food in their training, it’s perhaps not surprising.
Food Glorious Food
As far as food goes, Japan is taking the competition very seriously. Rugby players have a regimented approach to their diet in order to keep themselves fighting fit and at the top of their performance levels. According to a number of top coaches, protein is vital to develop and maintain muscle mass. Some coaches insist that the players consume a daily amount of 2.5g of protein per kilo of body weight. This includes eggs, dairy, beef, turkey, chicken and fish, most of which are abundant in Japan.
Many adhere to four meals a day. An example would be porridge and poached eggs for breakfast; sweet potato, vegetables and salmon fillets; steak skewers with roasted root vegetables and coconut rice for a post-training meal; and a prawn or chicken stir fry for dinner.
In the 24 hours before a match players should consume high-carb meals based around slower-digesting carbs such as potatoes, rice, sweet potatoes and oats. These are complemented with sweeter sources such as fruit and smoothies. Japan’s Yaki udon will be especially popular, as the dish is thick and chewy noodles, made from wheat flour. Yaki soba uses the thinner soba noodles made from buckwheat flour.
The Japanese national delicacy, sushi, fits well into a rugby player’s diet as does a lot of everyday Japanese food. It can be beneficial from a fuelling and recovery perspective due to increased intakes of nutrients such as omega-3 and electrolytes. Fish, stir fries and shellfish will feature heavily in menu choices as will the meat selection such as Wagyu prime cut Japanese beef. The meat fat has a very low melting point so it can literally melt in your mouth. Rumour has it that the animals are fed beer and massaged with sake.
The England team however, might be short on condiments. Supplies of tomato ketchup and mayonnaise have supposedly been sent ahead because their favourite condiments are scarce and expensive in Japan.
Japan has very good news for beer drinkers. Major Japanese sports keep spectators lubricated with vendors who patrol the stands dispensing beer into cups. These are called Uriko and they are crucial to meet the demand for beer. When Australia visited in 2017, bars were drunk dry before kick-off! So to ensure no embarrassment for the official sponsors, Heineken, the Japanese Heineken brewery has increased production by 80%.
One thing is clear, food plays an important part in the rugby world and with each country bringing their own nutritionists and food advisors, the right diet in Japan (a balance between East and West cuisine) may well go a long way in confirming the eventual winner.
The Rugby World Cup Final is on 2 November at the Nissan Stadium in Yokohama; when the winner of the 20 competitor countries will be crowned. So plenty of time for catering businesses to work out their own game-plan to benefit.