Leitch praises special Shizuoka crowd
HAMAMATSU, Japan (Sept. 29) – Japan captain Michael Leitch praised the crowd that watched the Brave Blossoms beat Ireland 19-12 at the Rugby World Cup, saying “I’ve played in a few stadiums, won in Brighton against South Africa and also played in Twickenham but that was the best stadium I’ve played in in my life.”
Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa was sold out for the game and Leitch said the team had drawn inspiration from the fans.
“The big stadium packed with red-and-white jerseys, there were Irish fans, too, and when I heard the Irish national anthem I felt the World Cup is wonderful.”
“The Japanese fans gave us the huge cheer when we applied the pressure and also when we were under pressure and that must have put quite a pressure on Ireland. I hope we continue to get the support.”
When asked to compare the win over Ireland with that over South Africa, Leitch said “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.”
The 30-year-old flanker praised the mental toughness shown by the team.
“The will to win and having the confidence of if we could win was the biggest factor. We especially did well at the scrummaging, set-pieces and applying the pressure on the ball. As a whole each of us fulfilled their roles.”
However, he reminded them there were still two big games to come in Pool A, staring with Samoa on Saturday in Toyota.
“Everything starts with preparation. We have to start with things like each player’s role, details and the resolve.”
“The Samoa game will really be important. They are strong and, like at the last World Cup, put their physical side to the fore, so how much pressure we can apply when defending will be important. I’m not looking at the Scotland game yet, one game at a time.”