Namibia wary of Japan threat in Juniors

(IRB.COM) Thursday 10 April 2014
 Namibia wary of Japan threat in Juniors
Japan coach Keisuke Sawaki wants his side to improve their physicality and mentality when they face Namibia - Photo: Power Sport Images for HKRFU

Giant-killers Namibia will go in hunt of another big scalp when they take on Asian champions Japan in the second round matches at the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy in Hong Kong on Friday.

Namibia, seventh seeds in the eight-team competition, pulled off a stunning 37-25 victory over second seeds Canada on the opening day of the tournament where the winner will qualify for IRB Junior World Championship 2015 in Italy.

The aim of the African champions is to keep the momentum going as they come up against Japan, the number three seeds, who are also looking to rebound from their opening 33-28 loss to Uruguay on Monday.

“We were happy with how we played (against Canada), and now we just want to keep the momentum going,” said Namibia coach Jan Dames. “We are just focused on this game and hopefully this will allow us to achieve the final target of winning the tournament.”

Dames called on his team to be more aggressive in attack as well as in defence, especially in the rucks, if they were to nullify the Japanese who, despite outscoring Uruguay four tries to three, still finished on the losing side.

“I saw about 10 minutes of Japan’s game against Uruguay and they are a very good team and pose real attacking threats as well as having a solid defence,” Dames said.

Japan, playing in their fifth consecutive JWRT, looked below-par at the breakdown in their opener and conceded too many penalties in this crucial area.

Standard on the rise

“We will need to improve our physicality and be stronger mentally,” said Japan coach Keisuke Sawaki. “We were not hungry enough against Uruguay.

“The level at this tournament is getting higher with more quality. Countries such as Namibia and Georgia seem to have improved a lot over the last few years.”

The opening loss to Namibia was a huge setback for Canada but coach Mike Shelley maintained that his team had put the loss behind them and would learn from the experience. They will need to do it quickly as they come up against a buoyant Uruguay.

“It was a big disappointment to lose to Namibia. But you can’t take anything away from them – they played well. Our error count was too high against a very passionate and committed team who took their chances,” Shelley said.

“We need to put that disappointment behind us now and prepare for Uruguay who showed in their win over Japan that they are a very good side. They will be riding high on that performance. It’s a quick turnaround and we will be making a few changes. We don’t have a lot of time to put things right but we need to get our confidence back quickly.”

Uruguay, meanwhile, are confident they can run their North American rivals close.

“We have played Canada in previous years and the game will be close as nothing much separates either team,” said confident Uruguay coach Martin Mendaro. “We have big expectations for this match and we may bring in some new players as a few are still recovering from that first game.” 

Flamboyant style of rugby

Top seeds USA began their campaign to win secure an immediate return to the Junior World Championship, having been relegated after finishing last in the 2013 event in France, with a 37-0 win over hosts Hong Kong and will now come up against Georgia.

The USA were held by Hong Kong to just 8-0 at half-time but picked up the tempo running in four tries in the second half to finish comfortably winners.

“Our set phase area was not good against Hong Kong but after a slow start we upped the tempo in the second half. We can work on these areas more as the tournament goes on,” admitted assistant coach Michael Engelbrecht.

Georgia overcame Tonga 34-10 in the other Pool A match and will be looking for another forward-dominated performance to get the better of the fancied Americans.

Tonga, the fourth seeds, will expect to get the better of tournament hosts Hong Kong with coach Feao Vunipola calling for a marked improvement from his team.

“We will need to improve our scrummaging and ruck management. We have been focusing on our defence and neglected our scrum where we were pushed around by Georgia,” Vunipola said.

Hong Kong coach Pale Tauti, meanwhile, said his team will have to be on the ball to combat the wide and expansive style of Tonga.

“Tonga is a quality team and they were caught off guard by a strong Georgia performance. They play a very flamboyant style of rugby where they like to play with width and throw the ball about. We will have to close them down quickly and play to our strengths,” Tauti said.