Japan Draw 23-23 with France

PARIS (Nov. 26) – Japan closed out the 2017 calendar year with an impressive 23-23 draw with France on Saturday night.

Played under the roof on artificial turf at the brand new U Arena, Jamie Joseph’s team outscored the French three tries to two, and could have won the game but for a missed conversion.

“I am disappointed for the team, we deserved to win,” said Joseph. “We haven’t been that successful against Tier-1 sides since 2015 (when Japan beat South Africa at the World Cup), so this is a step in the right direction.”

In a match-up between the hosts of the next two Rugby World Cups, the Brave Blossoms dominated territory and possession.

“We had our chances but couldn’t execute,” said Japan captain Michael Leitch, who once again led by example.

Following an exchange of penalties between Yu Tamura and Francois Trinh-Duc, Japan scored the first try of the game in the 22nd minute when some good work from the forwards and backs and a clever pass from Tamura saw Shota Horie go over in the corner.

But Trinh-Duc kicked a second penalty and then converted a try by Rabah Slimani to give France a 13-8 halftime lead.

The lead changed hands twice early in the second half.

Timothy Lafaele crossed just a couple of minutes after the second half started, with Tamura adding the extras, before France hit back with Gabriel Lacroix going over thanks to a well-executed kick pass from Trinh-Duc, who added the extras.

The two No. 10s then exchanged further penalties to make it 23-18 as the game entered its final 10 minutes.

Replacement prop Asaeli Ai Valu looked to have sealed a famous win eight minutes from time when he dived over from a ruck close to the line. But Tamura’s kick drifted wide leaving the sides level.

“The mindset of the Japanese players has changed,” said Leitch. “We are playing with a lot more confidence. Today’s performance showed what we can do and we are only going to get better.”