TOKYO, 16 Sep - Four years ago, Yu Tamura was a peripheral figure as Japan’s Brave Blossoms recorded one of the greatest upsets in Rugby World Cup history.
As he prepares for Rugby World Cup 2019, the fly-half is keen not to be compared with full-back Ayumu Goromaru, the kicking star of that 34-32 win against South Africa.
"(Set piece taker) is an important role but I'm not Goromaru. I'd like to convey my style in all aspects of the game," Tamura said.
Goromaru, who was named in the RWC 2015 dream team, scored 19 of his 24 points against South Africa with his boots. Tamura, who was third choice four years ago, played only the last few minutes of that match.
However, Tamura’s prowess with his feet – he grew up playing football before switching sports in high school – has made him instrumental as head coach Jamie Joseph transforms the Brave Blossoms, who were a passing-and-running side under his predecessor Eddie Jones.
What a finish by Japan wing Kenki Fukuoka from Yu Tamura's delicate chip.— Murray Kinsella (@Murray_Kinsella) July 30, 2019
The 30-year-old has been one of Joseph's go-to players. He also provides a variety of distribution, and is now Japan's main man, with World Cup newbie Rikiya Matsuda the only other fly-half.
Japan took on the Springboks on 6 September, and Tamura was criticised after his misplaced kick and pass led to two South Africa tries in a 41-7 defeat.
The hosts had secured the Pacific Nations Cup with wins against Fiji, Tonga and USA, but Tamura believes the late reality check will benefit Japan at RWC 2019.
"It wasn't as negative a performance as the result suggests. We had lots of chances, and the rest is about courage, execution. It made us realise again that the details matter," he said.
Tamura is keen to play down the hype surrounding his duels with two of the best number tens in the world – Ireland's Johnny Sexton and Scotland's Finn Russell – which could swing the fate of Pool A.
"This is a game with 15 players. It's the same for any country. Everyone has to do a good job and it's difficult to deal with it all alone. The stage is all set with the home fans behind (us).
"We don't know if we'll make it, but now the chance is here to give everything. (Japan) has been the place to give my absolute best.
"This is a team you want to do everything for without hesitation."