Japan analyzes win over Chile as England await

While Japan’s defense in their Rugby World Cup opener against Chile on Sunday was not nearly as tight as the security in and around the Stadium de Toulouse, the six tries the Brave Blossoms scored, not to mention their familiarity of playing in stifling heat, ensured it did not have to be.

Japan made it eight wins from their last nine World Cup pool games as the Chileans wilted in the afternoon sun.

But questions remain as to why Japan could not create even more opportunities against a team ranked 22nd in the world, lowest of the 20 teams competing in France.

“What you have to remember is we play faster than anyone else, and at times we make too many mistakes,” assistant coach Tony Brown said Monday. “The only way for us to win the World Cup is to play faster and faster. We have to lower our error rate and make sure every opportunity we get we execute and score.”

“The challenge is to get better in execution every time we play. As an example, England (Japan’s next opponents on next Sunday) had the lowest error rate of the first round at 22 percent but they didn’t do anything (with the ball). We cannot go that way, we need to play fast to win and we can’t make errors.”

Japan made 11 “bad passes” against Chile and lost six rucks and mauls, against four by Los Condores, who remained in the game until the final quarter.

“We struggled physically at the end of the game, maybe because we fought for 20 minutes with 14 men,” said Chile captain Martin Sigren, referring to the two yellow card his team picked up.

There was no shortage of passion from the World Cup debutants and quite a bit of skill, with lock Clemente Saavedra, scrum-half Marcelo Torrealba and full-back Inaki Ayarza to the fore.

But at the end of the day, the Brave Blossoms’ fitness and discipline — a yellow card to Dylan Riley aside — saw them home to a comfortable win.

Amato Fakatava deservedly won the man-of-the-match award for his brace of tries and 17 tackles, but there were a number of other players who caught the eye, or did not in the case of Jack Cornelsen, dubbed the “Silent Assasin” by the father of one of his teammates.

Originally picked to play at lock, Cornelsen moved to No. 8 when Kazuki Himeno pulled out on the morning of the game with a calf injury. As he seems to do on a regular basis, the son of Wallabies legend Greg played the full 80 minutes, making 19 tackles and being responsible for a number of the four line-out steals the Brave Blossoms imposed on the Chileans.

Rikiya Matsuda’s return to form with the boot was also a boost for Japan ahead of their game against England. But the rest of the backs will need to be a little sharper if they are to cause problems for the English defense.

“Matsuda played well and kicked some important goals to keep the scoreboard pressure when we needed,” said Brown. “He controlled the game very well, which is just what we need from our starting 10.”

The stats show Japan certainly tried to get the ball into the hands of their outside backs, with Kotaro Matsushima, Jone Naikabula and Semisi Masirewa making the most carries and meters gained for the team. But overall, it was Chile who made more tackle breaks and advanced more upfield with ball in hand.

“Chile did a good job pressuring us, and we did not execute around moving the ball wide,” Brown explained. “It’s all about being confident and attacking as one rather than individuals. We need to work on our attack and moving the ball wide and into the hands of Matsushima and our two Fijian boys as they are dangerous players.”

On the bright side, particularly given the way George Ford kicked during England’s win over Argentina, the Brave Blossoms were only penalized six times.

“Every player is striving to be better and working hard to improve,” Brown said. “Everyone understands the Japan way we want to play and how to play it, but we need to be better executing it against good defenses. We can get there quickly, we just need to work hard.”


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