Joseph Praises Team but Says Still Much to Do Before RWC Kicks Off
KAMAISHI, Japan (July 28) – Japan coach Jamie Joseph said he was delighted with the intensity shown by his team during their 34-21 win over Fiji on Saturday, saying “at crucial times our execution and skills were spot on.” But he said there was still plenty to do before the Rugby World Cup kicks off on Sept. 20.
“I think we are building nicely, but there is enough in that match to tell us we have a long way to go. We are on our way, but we are not there yet,” he said.
A superb first-half saw the Brave Blossoms open up a commanding lead and Joseph paid tribute to this players and their leaders for following the game plan in challenging conditions.
“We didn’t want to kick the ball in the first half unless we kicked it out. We are playing Fiji, which is one of the best teams in the world when it comes to unstructured play,” he said.
“We had all the ball and that obviously frustrated Fiji, they couldn’t get into their natural game, running at us, offloading, creating opportunities, line breaking. It was certainly what we wanted to do today, I think the leaders were able to implement that plan.”
Match captain Pieter “Lappies” Labuschagne agreed, saying he was very happy with the team’s performance.
“We knew what we wanted to do and how to execute it, we stuck to the game plan really well and it showed. We managed to put Fiji under a lot of pressure,” he said.
Labuschagne was forced from the field in the 33rd minute and was replaced by Michael Leitch, who was making a welcome return from injury.
“There were a few nervous times when Lappies went off,” said Joseph. “But then our campaign captain came on and that shows how we have grown as a team with leaders across the board, which was what we need heading into the World Cup.”
Fiji coach John McKee praised the Japan performance saying, his side had been forced to play catch-up rugby from early in the first half.
“Japan started very well and were very clinical in their execution,” he said. “They had our defence under pressure and that resulted in points for them. We tried to find a solution, but it was difficult for us.”
Japan take on Tonga on Aug. 3 in Osaka and with the team “One Team” in mind, Joseph was keen to point out that places for the World Cup were still up for grabs.
“The players selected did their job,” he said. “I have the utmost confidence the players selected next week will do theirs.”