The figure behind Japan's transformation
SPOTLIGHT: Head coach Jamie Joseph’s evolution in delegating and becoming a better communicator is a major reason why the Japanese are a win away from reaching the World Cup quarterfinals, forwards coach Shin Hasegawa said on Monday.
The Brave Blossoms will qualify for the last eight for the second successive time under Joseph if they beat Argentina in Nantes on Sunday in their winner-takes-all final Pool D match.
Both Japan and the Argentinians are level on nine points with England already guaranteed to top the pool.
Former New Zealand and Japan international Joseph, 53, became head coach in 2016 and Hasegawa said it took a while for him to settle into the role.
“For Jamie, I think he has changed a lot in the last eight years,” said Hasegawa at the Japanese press conference.
“Early on, we had times where he would start training without explaining anything to the coaches and players.
“For the Japanese players, they react well when they are given reasons, but otherwise questions come in first.”
The personal journey of discovery taken by Joseph has completely altered the dynamic within the squad, Hasegawa said.
“Nowadays, the players make more decisions than the coaches,” said Hasegawa.
“Jamie still makes the big calls but in terms of role clarity and spreading responsibilities, I feel we are becoming better as a team.”
‘Eliminate their power’
Hasegawa and Joseph go back a long way as they played together in the Japan national team.
“After eight years, I can tell what he is thinking and I think some of the other coaches do too,” said Hasegawa of Joseph.
“I can also say that whether it’s between me and him or him and the players, we understand each other really well.
“If there are any misunderstandings, we have honest conversations about it.
“I think we have relationships that are good and fair amongst all of us.”
Despite the Pumas being renowned for their scrummaging, former prop Hasegawa believes the Japanese can get the better of them.
“I think they are a completely different team every time we play them,” said Hasegawa, who played against Argentina in the 1999 World Cup.
“I think with the current Japan team, we can eliminate their power, skill and weight.
“So we get rid of their strength, and play the game in our way which is something we are working on.”
Argentina’s lack of discipline could well be their Achilles heel and if they do lapse then Japan has a super reliable kicker in Rikiya Matsuda to punish them.
Matsuda has accrued 37 points at the present tournament and had converted 13 straight kicks at goal until he missed a conversion for Japan’s third try in the 28-22 win over Samoa last Thursday.
“His kicking is really helpful for us,” said Hasegawa.
“For example, the difference between when a penalty won by the forwards gets converted into three points or when it doesn’t make such a big difference.
“Knowing that the work they put in comes out as three points, gives a lot of relief to the forwards from a mental point of view.”