RWC 2023: Japan Rugby side faces tall order replicating France Rugby World Cup success

Having achieved new heights at the past two tournaments, Japan faces an uphill battle to repeat its victory at this year’s Rugby World Cup 2023 in France. Jamie Joseph’s men will tackle heavyweights England and Argentina in Pool D at the Sept. 8 to Oct. 28 Rugby World Cup and must knock at least one of them to reach their goal of a second straight trip to the knockout stage.

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RWC 2023: Japan Rugby side faces tall order replicating France Rugby World Cup success
RWC 2023: Japan Rugby side faces tall order replicating France Rugby World Cup success

They will also need to survive an always bruising meeting with Samoa and avoid dropping points against first-time qualifiers Chile Rugby side in the round robin, which they will start with considerably less preparation time than in the past. The Brave Blossoms served notice to the rugby world in England in 2015 by spoiling giants South Africa in a match dubbed the Brighton Miracle.

They made more inroads four years later on home soil, advancing to their first quarterfinals after ousting traditional rugby nations Ireland and Scotland in the pool stage. Before both tournaments, the national squad went into lengthy camps aimed solely at the RWC. For 2019 in Japan, they had a seven-month buildup with the added advantage of the Joseph-coached Super Rugby team Sun wolves serving as a virtual training side for the Brave Blossoms.

This time around, they will have below four months from the end of the Japanese club rugby playoffs till the Rugby World Cup, having played fewer high-level games in the four-year interim due to the COVID-19 pandemic and dissolution of the Tokyo-based Sun wolves. The condensed timeframe makes the domestic contest, now in its second season under its Japan Rugby League One rebranding, more important to international players than ever, agreeing to prop Keita Inagaki, a member of the defending champion Saitama Wild Knights.

“We have to maintain the skills, physical condition and mentality needed to take on the world,” said Inagaki, whose club is likely to once again be involved until late in the postseason.

Inagaki, a veteran of the past two RWC campaigns, said Japan’s success depended on elaborate game-planning and being better drilled than their bigger, more physical international opponents. If we play basic rugby like the stronger countries, we’ll lose out physically, he stated. Each player needs a deep understanding of his role, and that doesn’t develop as soon as you get together.

RWC 2023: Japan Rugby side faces tall order replicating France Rugby World Cup success
RWC 2023: Japan Rugby side faces tall order replicating France Rugby World Cup success

Inagaki’s Wild Knights teammate Atsushi Sakate is set to captain Japan at a Rugby World Cup for the first time after taking the reins last year. The 29-year-old hooker has big shoes to fill as he follows in the footsteps of precursor Michael Leitch, who was an inspirational figure in 2015 and 2019.

Sakate has so far appeared up to the task while captaining his country in test matches against Uruguay, France Rugby side, New Zealand, and England Rugby side in 2022. While their only wins came in a two-test sweep of the South Americans, the Brave Blossoms gave both the visiting Bleus and All Blacks a scare in Tokyo. A lopsided loss to England at Twickenham in November, meanwhile, was a more sobering reminder of rugby’s world order.

“It was a great experience being able to play matches against the best teams,” Sakate told.

World No. 10 Japan have not beaten a higher-ranked nation since the 2019 RWC, but strong showings by some of their emerging players against top-class opponents are the reason for optimism. Among those to have made their mark are flyhalf Lee Seung Sin and scrumhalf Naoto Saito, who marshaled the attack in a closely fought 20-15 defeat to France in the second of two July tests. Worldwide Tickets and Hospitality offers Rugby World Cup tickets for the France Rugby World Cup 2023 at the best prices. Rugby fans can buy Rugby World Cup Final Tickets at exclusively discounted prices.

“I developed the mindset that I can do it,” 21-year-old Kobe Steelers star Lee said.

New Zealand-born Warner Dearns was also a standout for the Brave Blossoms in his second year as an international. The 201-centimeter lock produced one of the highlights of Japan’s 38-31 loss to the All Blacks in October, charging down a kick to score a second-half try that gave the hosts a shot at a historic upset. Although no longer captain, the 34-year-old Leitch remains an integral member of the national squad, offering leadership on and off the field ahead of his fourth Rugby World Cup. The Brave Lupus Tokyo back rower has undertaken intensive rehabilitation for groin and knee injuries to return to rugby’s biggest stage.

France Rugby World Cup: Why rugby league fans across the world should follow France’s top tier
France Rugby World Cup: Why rugby league fans across the world should follow France’s top tier

People around me say this will be my last Rugby World Cup but I’m not going to say it’ll be my last, told Leitch, who feels fully fit as he approaches a career milestone. Only a select group of people can achieve four Rugby World Cups. I’m in the form of my life. While Japan will accomplish their stated goal if they reach the last eight again in France, Leitch wants his teammates to set their sights higher.

“I have a dream of Japan winning (the Rugby World Cup), he supposed. We can do it someday if we increase the number of players who aim for it. I want to go for it.”

The condensed timeframe makes the domestic rivalry, today in its another time under its Japan Rugby League One rebranding, extra significant to international players than ever, according to prop Keita Inagaki, a member of the defending champion Saitama Wild Knights. We must continue the skills, physical condition and mentality wanted to take on the world, told Inagaki, whose club is possible to once again be complex until late in the postseason.

Inagaki, a veteran of the past two Rugby World Cup campaigns, said Japan’s achievement depended on elaborate match-planning and being improved drilled than their bigger, additional physical international opponents. If we play straightforward rugby like the stronger states, we’ll lose out physically, he said. Each player wants a deep understanding of his part, and that doesn’t develop as soon as you get together.

France Rugby World Cup: Why rugby league fans across the world should follow France’s top tier
France Rugby World Cup: Why rugby league fans across the world should follow France’s top tier

Inagaki’s Wild Knights teammate Atsushi Sakate is set to captain Japan at a Rugby World Cup for the initial time later taking the reins the previous year. The 29-year-old hooker has big shoes to fill as he tracks in the footsteps of his predecessor Michael Leitch, who was an inspirational figure in 2015 and 2019. Sakate has so far appeared up to the mission while captaining his country in test competitions against Uruguay, France, New Zealand, and England in 2022.

Looking back nowadays we went into (the 2007 RWC) with hopes which were not as high as they could have been, Thompson said. We were just there, and we needed to enjoy the moment, and play as tough as we can but we never truthfully, truly believed we were going to be competitive. One thing Eddie (Jones) brought into the squad was hope and confidence.

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