SYDNEY — They came, they saw and they conquered the hearts of rugby fans from all over the world, but ultimately the Cherry Blossoms left Australia on Wednesday without the one thing they were craving for — a win in Rugby World Cup 2003.

On paper, it may just seem like another fruitless campaign for Japan, but the truth is Japanese rugby came a long way during the team’s three-week stay Down Under and the rewards may have an even bigger impact on rugby in Japan and Asia.

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