Japan target historic win against France

(Rugby News Service) Monday 5 September 2011
Japan target historic win against France
Japan's Fumiaki Tanaka has voiced his concerns over facing France

AUCKLAND, 5 Sept. - Japan hope to uncork the champagne and make history by beating France in their Rugby World Cup 2011 opener at North Harbour Stadium on 10 September.

Japan lost to France in two previous official Tests. When the countries squared off in the first round of RWC 2003 in Townsville, Australia, the French won 51-29.

Should the world No 13 Brave Blossoms prevail against Les Bleus, who are ranked fourth in the world, the victory will go down as one of the biggest upsets in RWC history.

"If we beat France, we'll be making history," wing Takehisa Usuzuki said. "I'm not saying we can or that it will be easy, but I'm certainly looking forward to trying."

Japan's New Zealand-born coach John Kirwan added: "We're serious about being competitive and being the most improved team at the World Cup.

"I've said to the players, 'Having a great lead-up, great preparation means nothing - you are judged by the World Cup'. We must take our preparation up another 10 per cent."

Big and strong

Japan, however, are under no illusions as to the quality France will bring on to the North Harbour Stadium pitch.

Scrum half Fumiaki Tanaka described his team's chances as being not "very high," while hooker Shota Horie was especially wary of the French in the scrum.

"They're big and strong. Their three in the front row are just huge," Horie said. "How we withstand them will be a big part of the game.

"But rugby is played over 80 minutes. They will tire at some point and we have to make sure we capitalise when they do."

RNS sk/eg/pj/sg