Rugby World Cup 2011

Japan bid to end RWC with win

2011-09-26 11:15
John Kirwan (File)

Wellington - Japan, for whom coach John Kirwan has set the lofty goal of becoming a top-eight team by 2015, will seek to break a 20-year World Cup winless streak in Tuesday's Pool A match against Canada in Napier.

Japan were targeting their last two pool matches against Tonga and Canada to register their first victory since 1991, over Zimbabwe. They also drew 12-12 against the Canadians in 2007 but show a record of 21 losses in 23 games played.

The Brave Blossoms, however, showed little of the skill and tenacity which won them plaudits in their 47-21 loss to France as they were outmuscled 31-18 by the powerful Tongans on Wednesday.

That loss extended their record World Cup win drought to 17 matches and continued their trend of conceding at least two tries in all 23 games they have played in the tournament and increased pressure for Tuesday's match.

Japan are the only World Cup team to have shipped more than 1 000 points and are one of just three of the 20 sides in New Zealand that has conceded more than 100 at the current tournament, mostly due to their 83-7 rout by the All Blacks.

"They're a really enthusiastic team so they'll bring a lot of energy," Kirwan said of Canada, who beat Tonga 25-20 before going down 46-19 to France.

"We know we played badly," the former All Black star said of his team's performance against Tonga.

"In a World Cup, everyone plays badly but when you play badly, you need to win. We played badly and lost. We're not good enough to play badly and win.

"We looked at the game and the guys realised we lost the game rather than got beaten. We know how important this game is for all of us.

"We can still have a positive World Cup with our first win in 20 years. We're upset, disappointed, but we're turning that into the motivation that we need to play on Tuesday."

There were two changes to Kirwan's starting line-up, Sione Talikavili Vatuvei replacing Itaru Taniguchi at blindside flanker and Nozomu Fujita stepping in for Kensuke Hatakeyama at tighthead prop.

Canada coach Kieran Crowley, a former All Black fullback and New Zealand selector, said his team had "a lot of respect for the Japanese team and John Kirwan as coach".

"They are playing a great style of rugby and if you look at their French game, it's just a couple of things that didn't fall their way," said Crowley.

"There are some great players on that Japanese team and they're playing in key positions."

Canada flanker Adam Kleeberger, outstanding in the match against France when the Canucks held Les Bleus through the hour mark before superior fitness levels showed, said his team were well aware of similarities between this World Cup and the 2007 edition when the two nations drew thanks to a last-minute conversion by Shotaro Onishi.

"This is their last game of the tournament," he said. "It was the same situation when we played them in France (in 2007) - that was their last game of the tournament and they're a proud rugby nation.

"After a loss, you have to refocus. Tonga's done it (after Canada beat them 25-20) - it was a very emotional time for them. I think Japan are more than capable of doing the same."


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