All Blacks have lost their 'fear factor'
REACTION: Japan head coach Jamie Joseph said teams are not scared of the All Blacks any more after his side pushed them all the way before losing 31-38 in Tokyo on Saturday.
Japan have never beaten New Zealand in a Test match, but they trailed by only four points heading into the final minutes, after a spirited performance that saw them score four tries.
The All Blacks have endured a turbulent year that has included a home series loss to Ireland, a heavy defeat in South Africa and a maiden loss on home soil to Argentina.
New Zealand-born Joseph, who won 20 caps for the All Blacks in the early 1990s, said Japan went into the match “with full confidence” that they could win.
“Everyone is thinking about the All Blacks and that’s part of their armour, really,” he said.
“Having played for the All Blacks, one of the things we used to talk about 25 years ago was that everyone was a wee bit scared of us.
“Perhaps that’s not the case any more, I’m not sure.”
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Japan loose forward Michael Leitch, who was also born in New Zealand, believes the All Blacks’ air of invincibility has gone.
“In the past, teams have come up against the All Blacks and psychologically you think they are unbeatable but now those cracks are showing,” he said.
“It’s doable, and we showed that today. Give us an extra 10 minutes and who knows what would have happened.”
Japan beat South Africa at the 2015 World Cup and then reached the quarter-finals four years later on home soil, after taking down Ireland and Scotland.
Captain Atsushi Sakate said he was “frustrated” after failing to add the All Blacks to their list of scalps.
“We went into the game looking to win it and we’ve (been) preparing for that all week,” he said.
“When I looked at everyone’s face during the warm-up, I could see that we all had a lot of confidence. So to end up losing means that we fell just short.”