Joseph hails five-try Japan despite defeat by All Blacks
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.