The partnership will include a range of initiatives between the clubs designed to help support the growth and development of both clubs in key strategic areas including:
- Player and coach exchanges – Mie Honda Heat will send players to London to train with Harlequins and potentially play as trialists in development competitions, while Harlequins coaches will on occasion travel to Japan to support coach development for both clubs
- Player development – senior Mie Honda Heat players will work with Harlequins to develop leadership skills and share knowledge and experiences
- Staff development – Harlequins will collaborate with Mie Honda Heat through knowledge exchange in areas such as community rugby development, marketing and PR and delivery of matchdays
Formed in 1961 in Suzuka City, Mie Honda Heat have been playing at the highest level in the Japanese rugby union league system and have a range of International players in the past squad including ex-Japanese players (Tateo Kanai and Yoshikazu Fujita), South African (Franco Mostert), Argentinian (Pablo Matera) and Australian (Tom Banks). In 2024, the club look forward to welcoming Kiwi Kieran Crowley, as their new Head Coach.
In his recently formed new role, Harlequins Director of Performance Development, Tabai Matson will lead the partnership and work closely across both clubs and build on his experience of coaching in Japan having spent five years playing and coaching in Japan.
Matson commented: “We are incredibly excited to announce this partnership as we can see huge value to both clubs working together. The Japanese league is seeing great growth and investment and there is a lot of talent. We feel that we can add a great deal of value to Mie Honda Heat through our experiences and indeed learn a great deal from Mie Honda Heat. We can’t wait to get going in the next few weeks as we commence our first exchanges.”
Yoshihito Maeda, the General Manager of the Mie Honda Heat said: “We are pleased to announce that we have entered into a strategic partnership agreement with Harlequins, a prestigious rugby club in England. We are delighted to have the opportunity for a long-term International exchange with such an iconic club.
“Harlequins possesses a club culture and ethos, elite level coaching and leading high performance and player development pathways that will help improve our rugby program. Furthermore, Harlequins produces purposeful and captivating off-field marketing, matchday and promotional expertise which will provide us with valuable learning experiences.
“We hope that through friendly competition and collaboration, both clubs can contribute to each other’s growth and development. Furthermore, we strongly believe that this partnership will help foster a closer relationship between Japanese Rugby and English Rugby, strengthening the bond between our nations.”