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Roll over Beethoven: Japan's Fukuoka hits right note at World Cup

[TOKYO] Japan's Kenki Fukuoka has been striking all the right notes at the World Cup by helping the hosts reach the quarter-finals -- and credits his form to his skill at the piano.

The winger, who scored twice in Japan's historic 28-21 win over Scotland at the weekend, began learning the piano as a three-year-old and plays Beethoven to help him relax between games when he has time to tinkle the ivories.

"The feeling I have with my footwork is all thanks to playing the piano," Fukuoka told local media.

"Everything we've done came together in one perfect moment tonight," added the 27-year-old, whose favourite piece is Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, and who was clocked covering 50 metres in just 5.8 seconds in Sunday's Pool A clash in Yokohama.

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Neurologist Hiroki Tanizawa said that learning the piano has been proven to help athletes with their "cerebral reflexes" and decision-making.

"Playing the piano can be linked to a rise in intelligence on the whole," he told AFP, noting that tennis player Kei Nishikori is another Japanese athlete who has reaped the reward of his musical talent.

"It can also aid the thought processes needed in sports. With rugby it can improve split-second decision-making, reflexes and the ability to see the flight earlier and calculate distances."

Japan, who beat Russia (30-10), Ireland (19-12) and Samoa (38-19) before edging Scotland, face South Africa in the quarter-finals in Tokyo next weekend.

AFP