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'We're a team of guys who aren't superstars' - Japan bow out with pride

Jamie Joseph’s team have won over neutrals from around the rugby world.

THERE WERE TEARS beforehand and there tears when it was all over.

As scrum-half Yutaka Nagare showed his emotion during the Japanese national anthem, many supporters in the stands also shed a tear.

And when the Boks had finished over the top of the Brave Blossoms to end their delightful World Cup odyssey, the emotional energy in Tokyo Stadium was high too.

michael-leitch-after-the-game Japan captain Michael Leitch salutes the crowd in Tokyo. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Michael Leitch, so loved in this country, led his team around the pitch to bow in all four directions, as many of their fans cried. It has been a rip-roaring ride for the Japanese as they have won major respect with their ambitious attacking rugby at this World Cup.

As much as Jamie Joseph’s team have won people over with their style of play, their fans have won hearts with their style of support. The volume inside the stadium whenever Japan have played has been spine-tingling, with a frenetic edge to the screams every time a Brave Blossom makes a break or a big tackle.

The rugby folk in Japan have welcomed all visitors with open arms and curiosity, mixing and mingling despite the language barrier. As hosts go, it really doesn’t get much better than what the Japanese people have offered.

They have delighted in their team’s exploits, with the shock wins over Ireland and Scotland marking them out as a serious side who now look ready to take the next step and be offered far more regular exposure against the leading nations in the game.

Japan’s ultra-skillful, creative, and high-tempo approach to attack will surely have inspired many other coaches in the game, with Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown’s stock having exploded over the course of this tournament.

The Boks had too much grit and patience and strangling defensive quality for Japan in their first-ever World Cup quarter-final but we did at least see and hear a few more glimpses of what has made Joseph’s team and their support such a joy.

“I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved at the World Cup, we’ll accept that, we’ll enjoy that a little later on but I’m really disappointed for the players because they give so much to the group and they give so much to the country at this World Cup,” said Joseph after the Boks’ 26-3 win.

Captain Leitch was similarly proud of what the Brave Blossoms have achieved.

michael-leitch-thanks-the-fans The Brave Blossoms got a huge reception after their defeat to the Boks. Source: Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

“I’m extremely proud of what this team has done,” said Leitch. “Jamie has done an excellent job with the team and the fans and the country, I think we’ve done them proud, and to represent Asia and the Tier 2 countries, I’m sure they will be proud of us as well.”

38-year-old Luke Thompson, who battled impressively in Japan’s second row, hopes to see the Japanese achievements at this World Cup built upon.

“We’re a team of guys who aren’t superstars,” said Thompson. “We’ve come together so well. 

“We’ve had a great environment and it’s been so enjoyable, the fact the country has got in behind us and the world. We’re everyone’s second-favorite team. It’s been amazing, that support. 

“So that’s been super special. I just hope Japan rugby can grow from here. The opportunities that have arisen for the Japanese Rugby Union they’re taking and the game is going really well.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Tokyo Stadium

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