Japan head coach Jamie Joseph has made clear the ambitions his side harbours for their home World Cup.
Asked by media what his expectations were for the upcoming tournament, which kicks off on Friday when the hosts take on Russia in Tokyo, Joseph didn’t mince his words.
“Our team wants to make the top eight – it hasn’t been done obviously for a Japanese team,” Joseph said.
“The last World Cup, Japan did very, very well but still didn’t make the top eight so that’s been the target all along.”
In 2015, Japan became the first side in World Cup history to win three out of four pool games and not qualify for the knockout stages.
Nevertheless, it was by far Japan’s most successful tournament, with the Brave Blossoms having only ever won one match in their World Cup history before then.
The highlight of their 2015 campaign was undoubtedly their shock upset of two-time World Cup winners South Africa, with wing Karne Hesketh scoring in injury time to hand the tier two minnows a famous 34-32 victory in Brighton.
A 45-10 loss to Scotland derailed their campaign though, losing out on a place in the last eight to the Scots and Springboks due to a lack of bonus points.
Joseph’s side will again face Scotland in the pool stages this year, in what will be their final group match after fixtures against Russia, Ireland and Samoa in Pool A.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Joseph said.
“We’ve got some very tough teams that we play, starting with Russia on the weekend.
“To achieve that goal we’ve got to earn the right to be there so this week, the focus is on Russia and it’s important that we put in a good performance and win that match and then we can move on to the next challenge.”
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