Japan coach sends warning to Ireland
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Head coach Jamie Joseph said on Thursday he will never sacrifice Japan’s “adventurous” style of rugby for the power game even if this weekend’s opponents Ireland are proficient at it.
Joseph said there was no need to compromise as when the Brave Blossoms get things right up front in the scrum they can then deploy their strengths in upping the tempo and unleashing their backs.
Ireland are only too aware of that having, like Scotland, been beaten by Japan in the group stage of the 2019 Rugby World Cup where they arguably stole the show.
The Irish got a measure of revenge in a thrilling 39-31 victory in July in Dublin and that was with the hosts missing several stars either due to the British & Irish Lions tour or rested like captain Johnny Sexton.
Joseph and Japan have had precious few opportunities to build on their impressive World Cup display due to the coronavirus pandemic but enjoyed a decent run-out ahead of their European tour in the 23-32 loss to Australia a fortnight ago.
Joseph – who has been national coach since 2016 – said whilst tier one teams like Ireland have one idea of how to play the game the tier two ones had to adopt a different tack.
“The power game is not in our DNA and I do not think it will ever be,” a laughing Joseph told reporters on Thursday.
“The majority of tier one teams prowess is based around the experience, power and skill in their forwards.
“That puts a lot of pressure on our team. We have to play a different way and we do have a way of playing rugby differently from other teams.
“We expect other teams to target our pack and I guess when we get those things right up front like in the World Cup then we can be adventurous.
“It has been disappointing this lack of rugby because of the pandemic but that was out of our control.
“The lack of playing time together we have had, though, was evident in our performance against Australia.”
The former All Black star – a member of the side that lost in the 1995 World Cup final to South Africa – said due to the performances at the World Cup expectations are high at home.
“Based on the World Cup success it has created different expectations for the team. In Japan when we take the field the belief is that we will win.
“Perhaps expectation has also grown in different countries as we have a brand of rugby people enjoy and like to watch.”
The New Zealand-born coach – who played for six years in Japan and turned out for the national side in the 1999 World Cup – has selected star back Kotaro Matsushima at fullback as he expects Ireland to pepper them with high balls.
The 28-year-old South Africa-born back only joined up with the squad earlier this week after playing for his Top 14 side Clermont last weekend.
“We hope he is the same guy we know that played for us in the World Cup,” said Joseph.
“Players play for clubs all around the world but when they play for their country they are back at home with their family and that is the key point.”
Joseph said the fact the Test will also be Sexton’s 100th for his country makes the ‘challenge even more intriguing’.
“It will be a great occasion for our boys to be able to celebrate that as we know it is going to create a lot of emotion,” said the 51-year-old.
Japan: 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Dylan Riley, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Siosaia Fifita, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Yutaka Nagare, 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Pieter Labuschagne (captain), 6 Ben Gunter, 5 James Moore, 4 Jack Cornelsen, 3 Jiwon Gu, 2 Atsushi Sakate, 1 Keita Inagaki.
Replacements: 16 Yusuke Niwai, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 20 Tevita Tatafu, 21 Naoto Saito, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Ryohei Yamanaka.
Date: Saturday, November 6
Venue: Lansdowne Road, Dublin
Kick-off: 13.00 (22.00 Japan time; 13.00 GMT)
Referee: Nika Amashukeli
Assistant referees: Damon Murphy, Pierre Brousset
TMO: Eric Gauzins