Joseph hails five-try Ja­pan de­spite de­feat by All Blacks

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby Union - By Jack Tar­rant

Ja­pan head coach Jamie Joseph said he was proud of his side de­spite their loss in Tokyo at the hands of New Zealand yes­ter­day, point­ing to his team’s five tries and the im­prove­ments ahead of the World Cup next year on home soil.

The Brave Blos­soms scored their record num­ber of points against the All Blacks, hav­ing lost by an av­er­age of 84 in the three pre­vi­ous meet­ings.

A record crowd at Tokyo’s Aji­nomoto Sta­dium, which will host the open­ing match of the World Cup, were treated to some vi­brant at­tack­ing play from Joseph’s men, as well as some slack de­fend­ing, in the 100-point try-fest. “We are dis­ap­pointed with the loss but I am not dis­ap­pointed with the in­tent of my team,” said Joseph, a for­mer All Black.

“That we scored five tries is a sign that we have im­proved, espe­cially against the best team in the world.”

Against a sec­ond-string All Blacks, Ja­pan looked dan­ger­ous with ball in hand and Joseph was left to re­gret missed op­por­tu­ni­ties. “We kicked the ball too much and we should have kept the ball in hand to ap­ply pres­sure. It’s a bit of in­ex­pe­ri­ence,” he said.

“Ja­pan are get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter all the time,” said All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen. “They are try­ing to play a form of rugby that suits them and if you get it wrong, they will hurt you.”

Ja­pan have never pro­gressed be­yond the pool stages at a World Cup but, af­ter vic­tory over South Africa in Eng­land last time out, are hope­ful of reach­ing the quar­ter-fi­nals next year. They take on Eng­land at Twick­en­ham on Nov 17, be­fore play­ing World Cup op­po­nents Rus­sia in Glouces­ter. Eng­land for­ward Luke Thomp­son is con­fi­dent he can help plug the gap cre­ated by the ab­sence of Sean O’Lough­lin in to­day’s sec­ond Test against New Zealand at An­field.

The 23-year-old St He­lens fron­trower will be handed O’Lough­lin’s No13 jersey af­ter im­press­ing coach Wayne Ben­nett dur­ing his stint as a re­place­ment for more than an hour in last Satur­day’s 18-16 win in Hull.

A first start for his coun­try more than makes up for the dis­ap­point­ment Thomp­son ex­pe­ri­enced when he went to Den­ver for the mid-sea­son Test against the Ki­wis only to be left on the side­lines. “That drove me on for the back end of the year,” Thomp­son said. “I tried to keep my form go­ing and that’s what’s got me this spot now. I can’t wait for tomorrow.”

In Dublin, qual­i­fied for the 2021 World Cup af­ter a 24-10 win against Ire­land and Wales meet next Sun­day to de­cide the sec­ond au­to­matic qual­i­fi­ca­tion spot.

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