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Japan's 10 on 8 scrum training reaped rewards against Ireland

Japan flanker Michael Leitch has revealed how the Brave Blossoms successfully trained to dominate the Ireland scrum ahead of last weekend’s stunning 19-12 defeat of Joe Schmidt’s team. 

Ireland surrendered a 12-3 first-half lead as Japan recorded one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history, four years after they recorded an equally famous win against South Africa at the 2015 World Cup.

And Leitch has detailed how Japan used special scrums, of ten players versus eight, to prepare for the challenge of taking on Ireland.

After matching Ireland up front, it was an impressive Japan scrum that provided the platform for Kenki Fukuoka match-winning second-half try.

“We’ve put the focus on ourselves, forming our best ones rather than focusing on what they’d do. We’ve prepared in the same way as against South Africa (friendly played on 6 September), eight against 10 trying to push back, which we didn’t do before the Russia game,” he said.

“The players had the best scrummaging practice. I was on the ‘Irish’ side (one of the 10 against the eight) formed by players not starting. It must have been very heavy but they focused on details and that was great practice.”

Japan team manager Yuichiro Fujii added that the hosts had set their sights on beating Ireland since Jamie Joseph came on board as head coach in 2016.

“We’ve been targeting this game since Jamie took charge,” Fujii said.

“I’ve watched the Ireland Scotland game and felt it was a team where we can impose ourselves. Our defence functioned well and we scored from a few chances we had. Tamura missed the first but his penalties should have put pressure on them too.

“We knew we could move the ball around as they leave space relatively out wide. We carried the ball well and made them run, they didn’t have the legs in the second half.”

And Leitch, who has played a part in both of Japan’s most famous World Cup wins, admitted it is difficult to choose a favourite.

 

“Both are fantastic wins. Last time we went in under no pressure where no one believed we could win, given the Japan team’s past record in the tournament being bad, and beating South Africa had a big impact on Japanese rugby.

“This time against Ireland, second-ranked team in the world, and under real pressure with all the expectations from those around us as hosts, that must have had a big impact. So when asked which was better I’d say there’s no such difference.”

Watch: Stephen Ferris on his World Cup memories

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Japan's 10 on 8 scrum training reaped rewards against Ireland