Japan set to build on recent successes
It was as if Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan took a step closer last weekend as the Brave Blossoms put up a strong on-field show against the Webb Ellis Cup holders and undisputed number-one team in the world, New Zealand.
The capacity crowd packed into the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo were treated to an eight-try performance by New Zealand and there were glimpses of the world-class skills that has made this All Blacks team so respected and feared around the world.
But, for the most part, Japan competed well and they forced the All Blacks into a number of uncharacteristic mistakes with their trademark brand of high-tempo, quick-fire rugby. It was the style of play that has been so successful for them in the past, using it to good effect when they beat Six Nations champions Wales 23-8 at the same venue in June.
That victory ensured that the New Zealand match sold out in less than an hour with the match being broadcast on free-to-air, national television as well as being streamed live around the world.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen was quick to praise his hosts for their hospitality and also for the way they played. “We have been really well looked after here in Japan, it has been a lovely destination to tour to and the Japanese have been fantastic hosts, which bodes well for Rugby World Cup 2019.”
“Japan should be credited with participating in the game in a big way. They never gave up, they were looking to score points whenever they possibly could. They played at a pace that really only they can – it’s their style and they do it very well.”
Full-back and try-scorer Beauden Barrett was in agreement. “Japan were very strong today, especially defensively. They didn’t make it easy for us to attack. They had a good defensive line throughout the whole game. They created tough conditions for us and we found it hard to make the most of the opportunities. They came out firing. They were really physical and really excited to play.”
Rugby World Cup Limited Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “Japan will step into the international sporting spotlight when it hosts the Rugby World Cup 2019 and the 2020 Olympic Games. Although we are still six years away from RWC, preparations are already underway and the focus now is on continuing to build a strong supporter base for the game.”
“A sell-out crowd for a Test match in Tokyo is great to see and we will be working hard with the JRFU and Japan Rugby 2019 to ensure the entire RWC tournament is well attended by local sports fans as well as visiting supporters from other parts of Asia and around the world.”
“Rugby is already on the rise throughout many parts of Asia. But despite 60 per cent of the world’s population living in Asia, the continent provides just 10 per cent of the world rugby-playing population so clearly there is a huge amount of potential there for further growth.”