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Japan outmuscle Uruguay in Tokyo

By Kim Ekin
Japan player Yu Tamura looks on during the Lipovitan D Challenge Cup 2022 rugby test match against Uruguay at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo on June 18, 2022. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images)

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Japan eased past Uruguay in Tokyo 34 – 15 today as their Rugby World Cup preparations get underway in earnest.

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The Brave Blossoms will face the same foe again as part of four home Tests this summmer, with two Tests against France also scheduled.

Japan had too much firepower for Uruguay, with a combination of up-and-coming young players and veterans from their historic run to the 2019 World Cup quarterfinals.

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Coach Takanobu Horikawa took over as head coach when Jamie Joseph stepped down, but the New Zealander will return for the team’s second game against Uruguay in Kitakyushu next week.

“Over the 80 minutes we were in control and we were able to play with composure,” said Horikawa.

“We were able to show our style and do the things we have been working on for the past two weeks in attack and defence. I’m very satisfied with today’s game.”

At next year’s World Cup, Japan will face England, Argentina, Samoa, and a qualifier from the Americas.

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Koga Nezuka and Tevita Tatafu scored first-half tries to put Japan ahead against Uruguay, before Kosuke Horikoshi, Koji Iino, and Takeshi Hino scored after the interval.

Four starters in Japan’s starting lineup made their debuts.

“It was nice to meet some new up-and-coming youngsters,” said second-row forward Wimpie van der Walt, one of only a handful of World Cup veterans in the side.

Diego Magno and Manuel Ardao scored tries in the second half for Uruguay, which will compete in the World Cup against hosts France, New Zealand, Italy, and an African qualifier.

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“Our plan is to prepare for the World Cup by playing high-level matches like this to get experience,” said Uruguay head coach Esteban Meneses.

“I think there were a lot of good things to take from today’s game. We will try to improve and be in our best shape when the World Cup comes round.”

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