Japan's Imamura in doubt for opener

(Rugby News Service) Saturday 3 September 2011
Japan's Imamura in doubt for opener
Yuta Imamura may miss Japan's opening match against France

AUCKLAND, 3 Sept. - Japan centre Yuta Imamura is likely to miss his side's opening Rugby World Cup 2011 match against France with a sprained right ankle.

Imamura, who played three times in RWC 2007 and was a gold medallist in Sevens rugby at last year's Asian Games, sustained the injury just before Japan's final warm-up against the United States on 21 August.

Japan coach John Kirwan (NZL) said he would be taking no risks with the 26-year-old Kobe Steel player for the match against France at Auckland's North Harbour Stadium on 10 September.

Kirwan wants him fit for his side's second Pool A game against the All Blacks six days later.

"We won't be rushing Imamura back," Kirwan said. "He probably won't be right for France but hopefully he'll be OK for the New Zealand game."

A lot better

Imamura said his ankle feels better by the day.

"It's a lot better," said the man who has made 32 appearances for the Pacific Nations Cup champions. "I'm not sure if I'll be ready for France, but I have been improving, for sure.

"When I first did it, I thought I was in danger of missing the World Cup but I've been doing some work in the pool and on a stationary bike, which has helped."

Kirwan is pleased with the way the rest of his squad is shaping up after Japan's second day of training at Silverdale United Rugby Club.

"Everyone is focused," he said. "They were a little quiet yesterday, but their minds were in the right place today.

"We talked a little about the game plan for France, so they've got a few things on their minds now. But there's no pressure on us - we just need to focus on executing our game."

RNS sk/mj/sg