Rising to the Challenge at Rugby World Cup 2023

Halfway through their Pool D campaign at Rugby World Cup 2023, Japan know there can be no more slip-ups.
The 34-12 loss to England at Stade de Nice last Sunday has left the Brave Blossoms in third spot in the group, behind Samoa, their next opponents, and ahead of Argentina, who they play last in Nantes on Oct. 8.
“It’s a big game. It’s pretty much do-or-die now,” Lomano Lava Lemeki said of the Samoa game. “We’ll get away from footy for two days and refresh mentally. We’ll come back in and I’m sure Browny (assistant coach Tony Brown) will have a mastermind plan in place for us.”
“We don’t need bonus points, we just need to win and then beat Argentina. That’s what you live for – you love the pressure.”
“We’re just going to have to do it the hard way now. We win, we live to fight another day, if we lose we’ll go (home). We’ll save our best for these knockout games.”
Lemeki was forced into the action much earlier than he anticipated against England when he replaced Semisi Masirewa early in the first half. Masirewa has since been ruled out of the tournament and replaced by Ryohei Yamanaka.

Rugby World Cup 2023: Pool D – England v Japan – Stade de Nice – Sunday 17th September 2023. Lomano Lava LEMEKI

Two late tries helped seal the win for England, whose physicality eventually proved too much for Japan, despite some valiant performances especially from the pack.
Following the second round of matches, it is a Japan forward who is the tournament’s leading tackler.
Jack Cornelsen is the son of Wallabies Hall-of-Famer Greg, who in 1978 scored four tries against the All Blacks at Auckland’s Eden Park.

The young lock/back-row forward is one of three young players originally from Queensland who have been nurtured at Saitama Wild Knights by Robbie Deans, and has been dubbed the “Silent Assassin” by the father of one of his teammates.
“It’s quite cool in my own team to see how our internationals prepare and view a game in match weeks,” Cornelsen said back in 2021, when the thought of playing for Japan first presented itself.
“There are little things I’ve learnt from Robbie since coming to Japan about running lines and timing my runs better that I’d never thought of before. I definitely feel I’ve improved.”

Rugby World Cup 2023: Pool D – England v Japan – Stade de Nice – Sunday 17th September 2023. Jack CORNELSEN

In addition to the 35 tackles he has made, Cornelsen has also been a handful at line-out time, making a number of steals. His Wild Knights teammate Rikiya Matsuda is also a category leader with a 100 percent kicking record, having slotted over 10 from 10.
Both will need to be at the top of their game in Toulouse on Sept. 28 if Japan are to have any chance of staying alive in the tournament.
And key to Japan will be making the most of their opportunities.
The Brave Blossoms are currently ranked 16th for positive outcomes with a 63 percent completion rate.
“We created a lot of opportunities, we just made too many mistakes,” said head coach Jamie Joseph and it was the same message from the players and the assistant coaches.

Rugby World Cup 2023: Pool D – England v Japan – Stade de Nice – Sunday 17th September 2023. Japan’s Head Coach Jamie Joseph

As wing Kotaro Matsushima pointed out, the team know what went wrong and know what they need to do to fix things.
“After today’s game a couple of boys will be more confident. It wasn’t a bad-looking loss, so we just keep going and play with confidence in the next two games and focus on the Samoa game.”


No.NameTeamHeightWeightDate of BirthCaps
1Keita INAGAKISAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1900/7/41161990/6/250
2Shota HORIESAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1900/6/281041986/1/2173
3Jiwon GUKOBELCO KOBE STEELERS1900/7/11171994/7/2026
4Jack CORNELSENSAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1900/7/131101994/10/1317
5Amato FAKATAVARICOH BLACKRAMS TOKYO1900/7/131181994/12/74
6Michael LEITCHTOSHIBA BRAVE LUPUS TOKYO1900/7/71131988/10/781
7Pieter LABUSCHAGNEKubota Spears Funabashi TOKYO-BAY1891061989/1/1116
8Kazuki HIMENOTOYOTA VERBLITZ1900/7/51081994/7/2729
9Yutaka NAGARETOKYO SUNTORY SUNGOLIATH1900/6/14751992/9/435
10Rikiya MATSUDASAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1900/6/29921994/5/334
13Tomoki OSADASAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1900/6/27901999/11/255
16Atsushi SAKATESAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1900/6/281041993/6/2138
17Craig MILLARSAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1900/7/41161990/10/2914
18Asaeli Ai VALUSAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1900/7/51151989/5/727
19Warner DEARNSTOSHIBA BRAVE LUPUS TOKYO1900/7/191172002/4/118
21Naoto SAITOTOKYO SUNTORY SUNGOLIATH1900/6/13731997/8/2616
22Dylan RILEYSAITAMA Panasonic WILD KNIGHTS1900/7/51021997/5/215
23Lomano Lava LEMEKINEC GREEN ROCKETS TOKATSU1900/6/26961989/1/2017


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