Interest in the significance of sport in contemporary societies has usefully attracted attention to the social significance of boys' and girls' experiences in sport and physical education in schools as a significant aspect of their educational experience. The growth in critical research on the social dimensions and meanings of sport has encouraged long overdue scrutiny of the practice and educational significance of school based physical education and sport. It has also encouraged a broader view of education that takes into account the corporeal aspects of formal schooling (Evans, 1993, Kirk, 1996, Shilling, 1993). As Kirk (1993) contends, in the context of Western cultures that promote a restricted view of the body as a biological phenomenon, the significance of physical education and sport in education has long been overlooked. Drawing on Mauss' (1973) broader conception of education, Kirk argues that physical education and sport in schools are as much culture as nature and that the learning of bodily practices is a process, which is essentially woven into the fabric of everyday life.
This study is concerned with what has been labelled as the hidden curriculum (Jackson, 1968) of school-based sport and physical education. The notion of the hidden curriculum as that which is implicitly learned and is unintended and distinct from the formal curriculum, has been productively used to explain how cultural and social learning is implicitly transmitted through students' experiences of physical education in schools. The implicit and unconscious nature of the social and cultural learning that results from the hidden curriculum makes it a highly significant element in the broader education of boys and girls in any culture. The notion of the hidden curriculum has enabled those concerned with the practice of school-based physical education and sport to highlight the central role that they play in the production and reproduction of gender, class and culture. Interest in the body and the construction of gender over the past decade has contributed to scholarly interest in the body in sport. This encourages long overdue critical inquiry into the links between the body, culture and the socio-cultural dimensions of boys' and girls' engagement in school-based physical education and sport.
This study arose from my experiences as a rugby coach in Japan over a period of six years. During this time, while coaching at university and high school levels I encountered pedagogical problems that were connected to the ways in which rugby had been culturally transformed in Japan. This stimulated an interest in the connections between culture and the practice of sport within educational institutions and led to the undertaking of this study. Focused on the social dimensions of boys' experiences in, and through, elite level high school rugby in Japan and Australia this study examines the practice of rugby union football in two schools, in two distinctly different cultures. It draws on my experiences of coaching and playing in both cultures to interpret data generated from three-month ethnographic studies conducted at both sites.
Within a theoretical framework provided by the methodology of French Sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu the study focuses on a small group of key informants at either site. It examines their corporeal and discursive experiences of rugby in the respective schools' top teams and the ways that such experiences formed a central component in their social development. It highlights the cardinal role that sport plays in the construction of masculinity and the production/reproduction of culture and class. In doing so it illustrates the profound significance of the young men's engagement in elite level school rugby for their social development and their future life chances.