1 Sep 2011

Japanese rugby captain thanks NZ for support

8:31 pm on 1 September 2011

The captain of Japan's rugby team has thanked New Zealand during a welcoming ceremony for support offered during the March earthquake and tsunami.

Takashi Kikutani and the team were officially welcomed to Auckland during a ceremony in the central city on Thursday.

Kikutani greeted the crowd in Maori, which received a rousing applause and a high-five from mayor Len Brown.

The 9.0 quake and tsunami that devastated much of northeast Japan on 11 March came a month after the fatal Christchurch earthquake.

Kikutani says the disasters have made the countries even closer and knows that after the tournament the link will remain.

Team coach and former All Black John Kirwan says he is pleased to be back in New Zealand.

Civic or marae welcomes will be held for other teams throughout the country next week.

The Rugby World Cup starts on 9 September and Japan's first game is against the All Blacks on 16 September.