The Japan team, coaches and trainers pose for a group photograph after their loss to South Africa on Sunday night. Photo: REUTERS/Issei Kato
rugby world cup 2019

Everyone is watching us now, says proud Japan coach Joseph

By Jack Tarrant

Despite seeing his team well beaten by South Africa in their Rugby World Cup quarterfinal on Sunday, Japan coach Jamie Joseph was full of praise for his players and hoped they would be remembered as a source of inspiration throughout the country.

Sunday’s clash in Tokyo was Japan’s first-ever World Cup knockout match and expectations of an upset were high following four wins from four in the pool stage, achieved with a brand of attacking, rapid rugby that electrified their fans.

Over 50 million people watched their final pool match against Scotland and even more are expected to have tuned in on Sunday.

Although disappointed by the 26-3 defeat, Joseph had only words of praise for his bruised but courageous players.

“I am going to celebrate the efforts and achievements of this team. There has been a lot of work from a lot people, and it has been relentless,” said Joseph, who took over as head coach in 2016. “All the credit to the team effort, because that is who we are, that is how we operate and… you can’t acknowledge one person because it has been a real effort and having the country behind us has added to that.”

South Africa, who take on Wales in the semifinals, were simply too experienced and powerful for the Brave Blossoms on Sunday, with their suffocating defense stifling Japan’s free-flowing game.

However, it was his team’s relentless effort in the final stages, despite knowing they were going out of the World Cup, that most pleased Joseph.

Japan battled on, despite a couple of players carrying injuries, including props Jiwoon Koo, Keita Inagaki and flyhalf Yu Tamura.

“The last five minutes of the test match epitomized this team. We were down by 20-odd... but we showed a never-die attitude and an ability to keep on getting up,” said Joseph, who revealed the influential Tamura had been playing with broken ribs for much of the match.

“Despite us having some broken ribs in there… having that willingness to never lie down is something I am incredibly proud of as their coach. That is the sort of thing that will help us going forward.”

Nobody has epitomized Japan’s relentless energy on the field - and charm off it - than captain Michael Leitch, who cut a forlorn figure afterwards.

“I am not fulfilled or satisfied, just proud to be a member of this team,” he said. “I told (the players) to keep their chins up, we don’t have to look down... for the future we have to maintain this same attitude.”

If Japanese rugby can build on the success of the Brave Blossoms at this tournament, then the future could be very bright for a nation that has now won seven of their last nine World Cup matches.

“The players and the brand of rugby we have been playing has always been inspiring but the difference is everyone is watching us now,” said Joseph.

“It is the same as we have been playing in the PNC (Pacific Nations Cup), the rugby hasn’t changed but the opposition has changed, the pressure has changed and, with it being the World Cup, it has created a lot of noise for the team.

"So in that regard, for promoting the game to Japanese kids, it has been ideal. They would be the right words.”

© Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Japan can hold their heads up high.

I never expected them to beat my team or top Pool A (I'm Irish). But they did, and they did it with some very beautiful rugby!

Their games were exciting to watch and I am just as excited to see the continued growth of not only the national team but also all levels. From grassroots rugby up to the professional teams. By the 2023 RWC it would be amazing to see even more progression and hopefully also an invitation to the Rugby Championship for frequent games against NZ, Australia, South Africa and Argentina.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

Great for them and Japan! It's nice to see Japan rising up in rugby again.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

A tremendous performance considering that Japanese rugby is still largely an amateur sport. Well done to the players and coaches!

On another note, the star player of the tournament so far has to be the Kiwi lad with the mullet. He looks like he just stepped out of a 1985 movie and said, "I'm never cutting it off, it helps me run faster." Cool.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

South Africa was waaaay to strong and too big for Japan but Japan kept them at bay in the first half. No matter they lost, they performed outstanding throughout the entire tournament, I hope now that the older players are leaving they continue this spirit with the newer generation.

I personally have become a rugby fan. Shame im too old otherwise i would try to join an amateur club.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I saw the first half at a restaurant. I was surprised to see South Africa drop the ball so many times. Obviously they stopped dropping the ball in the second half.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

It's still one of those once-every-four-years-sports for me. It's right up there with ski jumping. I have a feeling a lot of Japanese fans will feel the same.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

They punched well above their weight, fast entertaining rugby , hopefully expose rugby in this country more and take it to the next level..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I am sure the rugby union is thrilled as well. They want to expand in the Asian market, and what better way to bring in new Japanese fans than for the team to do well?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"Everyone is watching us now..."

Well, yes and no. Japan did very well, and as has been stated above, they more than deserve to hold their heads high. It is also a great thing for the nation itself, and the people of Asia in terms of looking forward in rugby.

That said, no, not everyone is watching now. When Japan beat Ireland, Samoa, and then Scotland (in particular the first and last of those three, and to a lesser extent with Russia as well) it is the ONLY thing you could see on television. The replays of all games before every game, the replays after games, in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Now, you can't. There were a few highlights in the news, but it immediately switched back to baseball highlights. One of my colleagues, who hated rugby a couple of months ago, said this morning, "Rugby was great! I enjoyed it. Japan did well." I mentioned that it was still ongoing and the best games were likely yet to come, and asked when the next one would be broadcast. He said he didn't know, and wouldn't be watching.

So, no, not everyone is watching... many have shut off their TVs now that Japan is out. Hopefully, many more ARE in fact continuing to watch (if it's broadcast, still). I am glad this latter group has become interested in the sport if they were not before... especially the kids.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

"Everyone is watching us now..."

@smithinjapan - I think what Joseph is referring to is that now the rugby world is paying attention to Japan. Japan are now a real force, and hopefully this will continue with better opportunities.

As far as people actually now watching the tournament... well that's different and I tend to agree with you. Let's face it, Japan doing so well made the tournament interesting. Not just for Japan but for everyone with an interest in rugby. Now that they're out, it's back to the traditional powerhouse nations. Unless you're from one of those nations you probably aren't that fussed anymore...

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Too bad though that NZ and England were in the same playoff bracket. That would have been a much more entertaining Final.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Overall...great job Japan.

As for last night's match I believe South Africa dominated Japan more than the score actually reveals. As someone else posted, there were several instances in the first half where South Africa made mistakes (at least 6) and Japan failed to capitalize. The second half South Africa dominated.

I think Japan was completely over matched in this particular match and I think the All Blacks vs. South Africa may end up being the best match of the whole World Cup.

South Africa looks very good

I hope Japan keeps moving forward and improving. If they continue to do so at this rate they will be in the final four some day.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I think Japan was completely over matched in this particular match and I think the All Blacks vs. South Africa may end up being the best match of the whole World Cup.

One step at a time! Both teams have to win once more before they play again. England will be tough for the ABs & Wales won't be easy for the Boks. Anything can happen.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I dream of the two British teams in the final, but I doubt it'll happen.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Yesterday - my mistake. For some reason I thought South Africa and New Zealand would be playing against each other to reach the finals. I realize this is not the case.

The guy that got the red card for France must be feeling really bad at this time.....

2 ( +2 / -0 )

These kinds of international sporting successes where Japan surprises the world and makes people sit up and notice it for a moment, always gets the Japanese as a nation going. They love nothing more than to shine on the world stage. But once the attention is gone the majority turn back to usual programming as is happening right now.

My hope this time is that some have been converted to the sport and will keep watching, And for the team, that they get to enter the rugby championship, and the domestic competition grows to be taken seriously alongside baseball and soccer. Lets see.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

smithinjapanToday  10:50 am JST

"Everyone is watching us now..." snip**

Everyone whop supports rugby in Japan is watching, as are a huge portion of the international supporters.

The quote above that you try so hard to downplay with a wall of text is referring to the fact that Japanese rugby has finally arrived. Just because your friend isn't interested beyond Japan winning doesn't mean everyone else is following suit, exactly the argument you put forward in reverse.

And about the baseball coverage, try getting a J-Sports subscription and then tell me how many hours in the day Rugby (both Japanese and international league games) ISN'T being shown on J Sports 1, 2 or 4.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Some challenges are still facing Japan:

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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