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Japan basking in public limelight as World Cup quarter-finals beckon

They’re the biggest show in Tokyo, airing most days and everyone’s hoping they’ll get an extended run.

Japan’s rugby team have known nothing like the sort of adulation bestowed on them this week ahead of their Rugby World Cup date with destiny.

All the support looks like it will transform into crushing pressure for the Brave Blossoms when they run onto the International Stadium in Yokohama on Sunday for their final pool match against Scotland.

The stakes are extreme.

Win or draw and Japan will stay unbeaten, secure their maiden quarter-final berth and guarantee at least one more week of sweeping coverage.

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Lose and there’s the prospect of another deflating early exit, mirroring four years ago when they famously stunned South Africa but were eventually tipped out in pool play by the Scots.

The anticipation level has tangible measures.

Japan’s win over Samoa last week drew the country’s biggest ever single market broadcast audience. A share of 46 percent made it the biggest live TV audience for anything this year.

The fan zones dotted around the country exceeded expectations,, letting in 150,000 watched supporters for the same game.

More than 200,000 replica jerseys have been snapped up in Japan since the tournament began.

Australasian supplier Canterbury has reported the red and white hooped top has sold out in both Australia and New Zealand.

The excitement has translated into a media frenzy of sorts.

Everyone wants a piece of captain Michael Leitch, the country’s most celebrated player after overseeing two of the great Cup boilovers.

The team’s daily press conferences in Tokyo have been jam-packed of late, in many ways encapsulating Japan’s running of the tournament – enthusiastic and orderly at the same time.

Two Japanese players with former Australian Super playing connections, Will Tupou and Hendrick Tui, were part of a 75-minute press conference this week.

Translations slowed proceedings but so did the quantity of questions directed at two players who would have barely registered as public figures a month ago.

“To reach the quarter-fnals, honestly I don’t know how to put it in words,” said fullback Tupou, who made his name as an NRL winger for North Queensland.

“It would be a special moment. It would be a privilege.”

Former Queensland Reds flanker Tui said Japan’s Kiwi coaching staff, led by Jamie Joseph, had injected a self-assurance that had his team believing they can walk through walls.

At Wallabies press conferences, the subject of Japan’s prospects is increasingly being raised by reporters.

“They’re not just winning, they’re playing really good rugby,” coach Michael Cheika gushed this week.

“It’s massive for the region, massive.”

Beat Scotland and the Brave Blossoms will ensure Asia’s first hosting of the global tournament will climb from success story to unadulterated triumph.

AAP

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Japan basking in public limelight as World Cup quarter-finals beckon