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Japan look to create more RWC ripples

2015-09-22 09:52
Michael Leitch (Gallo)

Gloucester - Michael Leitch and Ayuma Goromaru can rubberstamp their sporting hero status by helping Japan claim another famous World Cup scalp when they play Scotland on Wednesday.

Another amazing win would take Japan tantalisingly close to their first ever World Cup quarter-final.

But in order to win "the most important game in the World Cup", as coach Eddie Jones termed it, they must work even harder than they did to beat two-time world champions South Africa 34-32 on Saturday.

"We haven't just come here to make one splash in the pond, we are here to play a World Cup and we want to make the quarter-finals," said 55-year-old Jones ahead of the Pool B match.

"If the players aren't excited after Saturday that would be a problem. They are excited."

Jones, who was cruelly denied the World Cup on home turf in Sydney in 2003 as Jonny Wilkinson's drop goal in the final seconds of extra-time gave England the trophy, said his team need to get out of the traps lightning fast on Wednesday in Gloucester and catch a Scottish side, yet to play in the tournament, napping.

"The start will be super important, we have to start early, but that can be hard after winning the previous game," said Jones.

"To borrow a cricket analogy if you score 100, when you come out in your next innings you have to work even harder."

Jones, who will move on to coach South African Super 18 side Western Stormers after the World Cup, kept faith with over half of the starting XV from the South Africa clash. Captain Leitch will take charge of the side for the 15th time moving him up to fourth on the all-time list of Japanese skippers.

Leitch -- whose audacious decision to go for the win rather than the draw in the final minute paid off handsomely against the Springboks -- and Goromaru will be crucial to how the game pans out for the 2019 World Cup hosts.

Goromaru, 29, contributed 24 points to their total against the South Africans but also made telling observations to his fellow players from his vantage point at fullback.

"He is the cornerstone of our team," said prop Hiroshi Yamashita.

The Scots will fill the role of the screen villain - as the 'Boks did on Saturday - for neutrals in the crowd.

However, the priority for coach Vern Cotter and his players is to get off to a good start in a pool where four teams - Samoa and the Springboks being the others - realistically will be in contention for the two quarter-final places.

The Scots have not lost to Japan in four meetings but Cotter said there will be no chance of his side being caught out.

"There's no complacency whatsoever," said Cotter.

"It's a humble group and certainly not one that gets ahead of itself.

"It (Japan's win) has given us something to focus on because they didn't just compete, they won. Everybody saw the game so there has been an applied focus," added the 53-year-old New Zealander, who has been in the post since May 2014 after a successful spell at French club side Clermont.

For Jones, who is half Japanese through his mother, said it was crucial that another headline grabbing result kept up the momentum for the sport back home.

"Apparently rugby's on the news now, which is unusual," said Jones.

"It's usually sumo and baseball but the big guys have had to move out of the way now.

"It's fantastic for the sport going forward. We want it to be a global sport, and an Asian country beating a top tier country really makes it global."

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