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'Throw Japan in The Rugby Championship': Japan impress again despite loss

By Finn Morton

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Japan captured the hearts of rugby fans all around the world when they recorded their history making win over South Africa at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

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Since, they’ve continued to be one of the most exciting rugby nations in the world, who seem to be going from strength-to-strength every year.

Four years on from that historic win, the Brave Blossoms backed it up in front of their home crowd when they beat Ireland to secure a maiden appearance in the knockout stages of the World Cup.

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How Michael Cheika deals with his critics in rugby.
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How Michael Cheika deals with his critics in rugby.

And then, as recently as Saturday afternoon, Japan once again showed that they are team which has the potential to be competitive against the best teams in the world.

The Wallabies came into this test as the favourites, on the back of four straight wins. Impressively, the men in gold recorded two wins over the reigning World Champions South Africa, as well as two against Argentina.

While the Wallabies had 59% of possession throughout the match, the Japanese defence held strong and proved tough to break.

Australia had a 14-point lead with just under half-an-hour to play, but the hosts didn’t give up, scoring 10 straight points to trail by four with just over five minutes to play.

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While the visitors would go on to score again through debutant Connal McInerney, which sealed the win, the competitiveness of the Brave Blossoms team is clear for all to see.

“Their ability to recycle ball, threaten you from all areas on the park has been really good,” Wallabies captain Michael Hooper said after the 32-23 win in Oita.

“Sometimes it felt today that we were able to put a lot of pressure on the Japanese side and they were able to find solutions and get out of that and flip it straight back onto us.

“They’ve got a pretty complete game. They’re good at the breakdown, got good attacking players and their set-piece is getting better…They’re a team that’s improving fast.”

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Earlier this year, the Brave Blossoms became the latest of a few nations to have played against the British and Irish Lions. After going down by 18-points at Murrayfield, they then faced Ireland a week later.

Considering their status in the game as a tier one nation, and the competitiveness against a in-form Wallabies side, it had many asking whether they’re worthy of a spot in The Rugby Championship.

The previously titled Tri Nations expanded in 2012 to include Argentina, who since claimed wins over all three major South Hemisphere sides, including the All Blacks last year.

As you can see below, some fans have made it clear on Twitter that they want to see more Test matches involving Japan in the future.

Both Hooper and coach Dave Rennie were asked about whether the Brave Blossoms should join The Rugby Championship.

While Hooper said that he wasn’t going to answer as it was “a bit above the decisions that I need to make”, he did provide a unique perspective on what it’s like to face them, and how it compares to the All Blacks, Springboks and Los Pumas.

“In terms of that game itself, look it was more up tempo than some of The Rugby Championship there. Definitely not the New Zealand games.

“Japan’s intent to throw quick lineouts, get the ball moving around, keep the ball in the field of play with their kicks and then just generally run it back.

“Came close at the end there but it certainly felt like we’re all over them for most of the game and let them in with some poor discipline and some poor skill error.”

Rennie also commented on the Brave Blossom’s standing in the sport, and how “they’re only going to get better.”

“They’re a good side. They’ve got outstanding staff who’ve developed genuine depth,” Rennie said after the win in Oita.

“They’re only going to get better I think so, yeah certainly worthy of where they’re sitting in the world. And certainly great for them to be playing a lot of tier one nations now maybe compared to what they were doing two or three years ago.”

Both sides are now preparing for Test matches in Europe, with the Wallabies set to face Scotland, England and Wales to finish their international season. The men in gold have the potential to extend their winning streak to eight matches if they win all three.

Meanwhile the Brave Blossoms are set to take on Ireland at the Aviva Stadium early next month, before facing Portugal and then Scotland at Murrayfield. Japan beat both Ireland and Scotland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which saw them top A.

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'Throw Japan in The Rugby Championship': Japan impress again despite loss

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