Hard work awaits jetsam Japan
REACTION: Japanese players have to pick themselves up and work hard ahead of their two matches with Portugal and Scotland following the 60-5 rout by Ireland in Saturday’s one-off Test at Lansdowne Road, said head coach Jamie Joseph.
Joseph gave a brutal and frank appraisal of a somewhat surprisingly one-sided encounter on what was Irish captain Johnny Sexton’s 100th Test appearance for his country.
Japan had beaten the Irish in a memorable run at the 2019 World Cup and then came out the wrong side of a highly entertaining 39-31 defeat in Dublin in July.
However, they were on the back foot from the start of the match played in front of around 40,000 spectators — the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year so many have been permitted to attend.
Whilst it was far from a full house, even with it being Sexton’s landmark Test, those that did come were royally entertained with 10 tries — the Irish accounting for nine of them, including three by Andrew Conway.
“We’ve just got to get ourselves back up again now and get on with it,” said Joseph.
“We have got to carry on, that will be our focus going forward. We are on tour. It is not like July where we got to go home straight away.”
Joseph – who was part of the New Zealand team beaten in the 1995 World Cup final – said that from the set-piece “we did not seem capable of throwing the ball in straight” to contesting the high balls everything went awry.
“A lot of hard work to come because we were beaten in all parts of the game,” said Joseph, who has been in charge since 2016.
“We lost most battles so, as I said, there is lots of work to do with our attack, defence and set piece. That is the job that lies ahead.”
Joseph said there were extenuating circumstances from the Irish playing really well.
“They were playing for one of their brothers in terms of Johnny Sexton,” he said.
His team were also missing key personnel.
“We are a bit behind [on their 2023 World Cup preparations],” said the 51-year-old New Zealander.
“Because of the pandemic, this is just our fourth game since the 2019 World Cup [by comparison it was Ireland’s 17th].
“The lack of domestic action also cut off the supply of players we would have liked to take a look at.
“Lots of players retired after the 2019 World Cup and we have five locks [second row forwards] injured
“All that compromises our ability to play rugby against a really good side like Ireland.”
Brave Blossoms captain Pieter Labuschagne said it was a heavy defeat but there is a resilience about his team too.
“I still believe in this team and the management and what we stand for,” he said.
“We lost today but we can pick ourselves up and go forward. We have Portugal next week so we will focus on that and we will be better.”
The 32-year-old South Africa-born back row forward had presented Sexton with a Samurai sword to celebrate his landmark Test.
“It is a great milestone, something really special and all the accolades that come his way he thoroughly deserves,” said Labuschagne.
“He has been a great ambassador for rugby for a long time and today should be about him.
“He played really well on the pitch and you could see them (the Irish) playing for him.
“We wanted to give him something special on this occasion something to symbolise the game.”