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Dublin: 4°C Thursday 13 May 2021

'All the Irish media were talking about South Africa' - Japan savour huge shock

The Brave Blossoms took some motivation from the Irish focus on a possible quarter-final.

JAPAN NOTED THE headlines in the Irish media about a possible quarter-final between Ireland and South Africa with interest.

They might have heard Joe Schmidt answering questions about the Springboks too, wondering why so few people in Ireland was focusing on how big a threat the Brave Blossoms posed in Pool A.

japan-celebrate-at-the-final-whistle Japan celebrate a famous win. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Luke Thompson and his team-mates would have noted Ireland’s 21-point favouritism with annoyance, a feeling furthered by the widespread expectation – from this writer included – that Ireland were going to have far too much quality and power to be drawn into a close contest.

“Everyone had written us off,” said Thompson after Japan’s stunning 19-12 win. “All the Irish media were talking about South Africa and how they are going to play them in the quarter-finals and what they have to do.”

Instead, it’s Japan who move to the top of Pool A on nine match points, three ahead of second-placed Ireland.

The hosts have a week until their next fixture against Samoa, before an eight-day turnaround to their final pool game against Scotland.

Jamie Joseph’s men will take huge confidence from this win over Ireland into those closing fixtures, but right now they’re keen to savour this upset.

“Tonight, we’ll sit down and we might have a quiet beer,” said Thompson. “That’s why you play the game, to enjoy moments like this, and this is a special moment for, not only us players, but for Japan rugby in general.

“We’ll enjoy tonight and maybe train tomorrow or at least travel. We have some really tough games coming up and we are still nowhere near where we want to be in terms of our goals.

“We’ve got a goal to make the top eight and we’re not there yet. We know that in 2015 we won three games and still missed out. That hangs in the background but we are a new team and we still know the challenges we have. We have two really good teams to play still and tonight shows that if you are not 100% on your game you can lose to anyone.”

iain-henderson-competes-for-a-line-out-with-luke-thompson Thompson makes a crucial lineout steal. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The manner of Japan’s win tonight in Shizuoka was as thrilling as the result itself, as they swept from one edge of the pitch to the other and counter-attacked with glee, keeping Ireland constantly on edge.

They were a completely different team to the one we’d seen stutter against Russia in their opening game and even after going 12-3 down to Ireland, there was still real belief.

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“I think they scored two tries from kicks but if you are asking if Ireland were well on top, then it’s not true at all,” said Thompson.

“The pressure wasn’t on us tonight. Last week we were expected to win and there was a lot of guys playing their first World Cup match and it was a huge occasion and Russia played really well.

“They played a physical style and didn’t let us do as much as we wanted to do so we had a week’s more experience and we played with the ball a bit more tonight.

“That worked for us and we stuck to our guns, stuck with what we needed to do and what the game plan was and it proved successful on the night.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Ecopa Stadium

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