England A ensured it finished its five-game tour of North America and Japan unbeaten on Sunday as it beat Japan 55-20 at Tokyo’s National Stadium.
However, the hosts can take pride from the game, which was in marked contrast to their lackluster performances at the start of the season.
“We have come a long way in a short period of time,” said Japan’s assistant coach Mark Bell. “But there are still too many mistakes in our game and you cannot do that in international rugby.”
With Japan’s provisional World Cup squad being announced on Wednesday, a number of Japanese players put in performances that ensured they will be on the plane to Australia in October.
Adam Parker and Takeomi Ito in the forwards and veterans Yukio Motoki and Keiji Hirose in the backs were the pick of the Cherry Blossoms, who sent the crowd of 25,000 into raptures in the 24th minute by pushing the England pack backward for a try credited to center Hideki Namba.
But Japan was always going to be playing catch-up rugby after England had scored three tries in the opening 20 minutes.
“We talked before the game that we wanted to start well and it helped give us a cushion,” said England captain Hugh Vyvyan, who must have been delighted with the sublime behind-the-back pass thrown by James Simpson-Daniel that put Martin Wood away for the first of his two tries in the 13th minute.
The second half saw Japan threaten on a number of occasions but with England varying its game plan as the situation dictated, and Japan’s defense tiring, the floodgates opened.
Ian Balshaw’s second try in the 64th minute highlighted the differences between the two teams. With Japan camped in the England 22 for five minutes the English defense proved too resilient and a loose pass saw the British Lions fullback make an interception and race 80 meters for the score.
“Our defense was 80 percent better than earlier in the season,” said head coach Shogo Mukai. “But we are still masking too many handling errors at crucial times.”
Having played their last game before the World Cup, the Japanese players know that there is still much to do in the four training camps they have before they leave for Townsville in October.
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