Wrestling with the future of rugby in Mongolia

Jun 23, 2022

When future Brave Blossoms captain Michael Leitch first arrived in Japan as a 15-year-old, he thought he had a general idea. But then he started clocking who was winning top tournaments and the seedling of an idea lodged in his brain. Today, he is taking action.

He tells Rugby World: “When I first came over here, I realised that all the top sumo wrestlers in Japan were actually Mongolian. And I thought that was fascinating.

“They could all speak perfect Japanese. So I looked into the background story and a lot of them were scouted in childhood – like 15 or 16 – and were taken into what you’d call a sumo camp or stable. They just trained and trained and trained and became these top sumo wrestlers.

“And these guys are massive, you know. They’re huge guys. So I thought, if you could get one of these guys to play rugby, that’d be awesome. In the front row, like a tighthead. Because you don’t need to have the flair or anything like that, they just need to be big and strong.

Norov Michael

“So going to Mongolia, I thought there should be a heap of Mongolian kids over there that have that potential to play in the front row.”

Yes, Leitch headed to Mongolia. And in 2019, a young man headed back the other way.

Thanks to a plan Leitch cooked up with Austin Gansukh of the Mongolian rugby union, they appealed for talent via social and traditional media campaigns, as well as courting the views of youth and school coaches, before running a process of scouting and screening sessions.

After whittling down the numbers they finally identified young Norovsambuu ‘Norvoo’ Davaajav as the right player to come over to Japan for placement in a school programme.

Read the full article at Rugby World