Japan's potential evident from development

(IRB.COM) Saturday 6 June 2009
By Rich Freeman
From Tokyo
 Japan's potential evident from development
Takehito Namekawa is tipped to have a big role to play against Samoa - Photo: Hiroyuki Nagaoka (RJP)

The record crowd of 9,120 may have gone home disappointed, but Japan coach Masahiro Kunda said his players had done all they could during their 43-0 loss to England at Tokyo’s Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium.

“Obviously I am disappointed we couldn’t win and we couldn’t get any points on the board,” the former national team hooker said. “But I think we played as well as we could. There was just too much of a gap in experience between the two sides.”

That difference in experience was also picked up by England coach Mark Mapletoft, who said that “if they can show more patience in the attacking third I am sure they can score tries and win games.”

Mapletoft also admitted the team that ran out for their IRB TOSHIBA Junior World Championship 2009 Pool B opener was far better than the Japan side he watched three years ago in Belfast as “they are now far more structured and organised and very disciplined.”

This organisation was particularly evident in defence with Japan frustrating the 2008 runners-up around the breakdown in difficult conditions as the rain poured down, having kept their try-line intact for the opening 14 minutes of the match.

“Japan were brilliant defensively at times,” said England captain Luke Eves, a try-scorer in the victory and a member of England’s side beaten 38-3 by New Zealand in last year’s Championship final. “They made low tackles and made it hard for us to make breaks.”

Japan’s next game is on Tuesday at the same venue against Samoa, the last gasp 17-14 winners over Scotland on day one, and Kunda admitted he had targeted the Pacific islanders as a match his side can win.

“Some of the substitutions we made today were to reduce the stress in defence,” explained Kunda. “But we also had an eye on the Samoan game.”

Scrum half Takehito Namekawa – who must be one of the smallest players in the tournament at 1.63 metres and 66 kilograms – was brought on in the second half to speed things up and Kunda expects the tiny half back to play a big role against the Samoans.

“He made a few mistakes but started to impose himself,” Kunda said after the match. “We expect him to play well in the Samoa game as a result of this experience. He will be a key player.”