Japan warm up for Ireland series with win over Romania

The eastern European side are also likely to be part of Ireland’s pool at the next World Cup.

JAPAN GROUND OUT a 33-21 victory over Romania today, a week before they face another 2019 World Cup opponent Ireland.

The Brave Blossoms overcame a sluggish start in Kumamoto before tries from Akihito Yamada, Kenki Fukuoka and Michael Leitch provided the spark. Out-half Jumpei Ogura booted 18 points with a perfect seven successful attempts out of seven.

After giving up two early penalties to Florin Vlaicu, Yamada produced the game’s highlight play, latching onto a clever nudge-through from Tim Lafaele to race clear.

(watch highlights after 1.25 of the clip below)

斎藤アヴァンチュール / YouTube

Fukuoka lunged over for Japan’s second try before Ogura converted to give the hosts a 23-9 lead at the break.

Leitch, who captained Japan to three wins at the 2015 World Cup, smashed through to score on his return at the start of the second half, leaving the Romanians with a mountain to climb.

Mihai Macovei and Tongan-born Fonovai Tangimana reduced the deficit with bulldozing tries, but a comeback never looked on the cards in sapping conditions in southern Japan.

“It was nice to get a result,” said Japan captain Shota Horie. “Romania are a very physical team and they came at us but we were able to adjust and stay on the front foot.

Japan Rugby Japan Romania Leitch dives over for his try. AP / PA Images AP / PA Images / PA Images

“We still need to improve our scrum and line-outs, as well as the physical side, and that’s what we will continue to do before 2019,” he added.

Asian champions Japan tackle Ireland, Scotland and the third European team to qualify for Pool A — likely to be Romania — when they host the World Cup, the first to be held in Asia.

“Japan obviously played very nice rugby,” said Romania winger Jack Cobden.

“They like to throw the ball around and we tried as hard as we could to stop it. We’ve got a lot to work on in the future.”

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