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By Oliver Trenchard
Japanese Imperial author
“That is no longer a wonder.”
Read many papers as the Brave Blossoms booked a place with victory against Scotland at the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals for the first time.
Media and the public are waking up their national team.
But this didn’t occur overnight.
The stride and endurance of Kenki Fukuoka and celebrity wingers Kotaro Matsushima, coupled with all all the heroic leadership of back-rower Michael Leitch along with captain, deserve all of plaudits which come their way, however there’s more to this Brave Blossoms than their own poster boys.
Japan have capability from 1 to 15 – and on the replacements’ bench.
They have forward with managing skills to equal that of resistance backs, effective at some offloads as demonstrated by hooker Shota Horie from Scotland.
The Brave Blossoms understand their strengths lie with their fitness and so are keen to maximise time that is ball-in-play, transferring the ball away from the region of contact.
The hosts face two-time winners South Africa at the last eight after getting the athletic story of the pool stage. BBC Sport looks at the causes of the increase of Japan.
Launch the Sunwolves a couple of months has brought benefits.
The Japanese gamers are testing themselves against quality hemisphere opposition, a luxury they would not have with national League rugby .
Although the Sunwolves will participate in Super Rugby from 2021, they have played a part in Japan’s World Cup preparations.
An alignment involving the Sunwolves over the past two seasons and the group has witnessed head trainer Jamie Joseph and assistant Tony Brown carrying the reins of both teams, resulting in the Super Rugby side becoming an extension of their Brave Blossoms.
Much of nimble managing Japan have generated at the World Cup and the attacking flair was honed in Super Rugby.
Joseph and Brown had the luxury last period of picking which players featured for the Sunwolves, pulling the majority of Japan’s World Cup squad to get a series of intensive training camps and enabling the Brave Blossoms to perfect those set-piece patterns and backs moves, also arguably make them the most fittest team in the championship.
Where Japanese football has benefitted from overseas coaches, it’s not the Sunwolves.
Robbie Deans, the most successful Super Rugby coach by number of titles, continues to be at the helm of Panasonic Wild Knights in the League and key into the development of wing Fukuoka and forward Horie and Keita Inagaki.
Meanwhile, Kazuki Himeno, one of the players of the tournament thus far, has 2007 World Cup-winning coach Jake White to thank for his progression.
White was appointed head coach of Toyota Verblitz at 2017, whom Himeno united in April this year directly out of college.
Only 1 month after, he was made captain White, stating that it was a”large opportunity for him to grow”.
The struggled to cope with the captaincy originally but started building a group, reading books on leadership and staying at night in cafes.
After making his debut Verblitz in the Top 24, he had been rewarded with his original Brave Blossoms call-up.
He has continued at the breakdown on his trajectory together with his ram-battering stubborn and carries work.
Even though Joseph and Brown will get the headlines for Japan attacking play, it’s been the scrum in which the Brave Blossoms have improved most below their tenure.
Shin Hasegawa is your guy responsible for the Japanese scrum. Cutting on a figure in a suit and tie the end of the seat on Sunday of Japan, the brace is not the type of person you’d want to bump into at night down a subtropical Tokyo street.
Having played at the 1999 World Cup alongside Joseph for Japan, Hasegawa realised the opponents easily overpowered the Japan scrum.
After turning them into a title contender with all the scrum at the group and Immunology Best League team Yamaha Jubilo, Hasegawa was called upon by Joseph from 2016 to assist the Brave Blossoms’ scrummaging.
Conscious that Japanese gamers will normally be of greater stature than their competitors, Hasegawa has compared his scrummaging approach with Japan into your punch, in which”punching faster” will cause more impact than”punching harder”.
His breakthrough came at June 2017 in two Tests against Ireland.
Japan were overpowered at the scrum in the first Test. But a slight change in the angle of the hooker saw the week the Brave Blossoms compete. It was subsequently the Japan forward realised his ability.
South Africa buffs with memories of 2015 will likely be eager to remind Japan that lightning does not strike twice.
However, the Brave Blossoms will enhance their chances of claiming another tier-one scalp on Sunday and have beaten Scotland and Ireland in Pool A.
The Brighton miracle’s rematch comes using the Springboks cantering to a 41-7 victory on that occasion, just 44 days after the teams met in a game.
This was far from the situation , while the margin of victory that day in Kumagaya would indicate a one-day event.
Japan appreciated as much land and won as several rucks, outstripping the resistance in almost every statistic from breaks into offloads.
The only area where they neglected to match the Springboks was with all the people more clinical than the hosts, on the scoreboard.
Japan is going to be eager to make amends for the defeat.
Their lineup was perfected over the span of their four victories, together with centers Ryota Nakamura and Timothy Lafaele overriding to Matsushima and Fukuoka’s handling skills being granted attacking chances.
Never has rugby acquired this degree of exposure. The country’s robustly newspaper market has plastered Japan’s red and white all on its pages, even whilst tv records have been obliterated for Brave Blossoms games.
Sunday’s win from Scotland saw 53.7% of the nation tune in, making it the most viewed television programme of the calendar year domestically.
Viewership has improved game-on-game to get Japan matches with the audience more than twice that of the opening match of Sunday, throughout the pool period.
Rugby has captured the hearts of this nation.
When uttered around major sporting occasions, the term legacy can be tarnished with a sense of platitude. This is uncharted territory for rugby, whose job it is to ensure that the sport is not being followed by these fans every four years.
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