Japan wrapped up its home preparations for next month’s Rugby World Cup with a morale-boosting 40-0 win over Uruguay on Saturday night.
After a difficult week for Japanese rugby — taking in the future of coach Eddie Jones, the hosting of the 2019 World Cup and Japan’s ability to field a Super Rugby franchise — the Brave Blossoms came good on the pitch, beating the South Americans for the second time in two weeks.
Ayumu Goromaru, Kosei Ono and Michael Broadhurst all scored first-half tries to put Japan firmly in control at Prince Chichibu Memorial Ground, before Kotaro Matsushima, Hendrik Tui and Kenki Fukuoka crossed the line after the break to add to 10 points from the boot of Goromaru.
Jones will on Monday announce his 31-man squad for the Sept. 18-Oct. 31 World Cup in England, but the coach is aware that his team still has plenty of room to improve.
“The team is very focused on changing Japanese rugby history,” said Jones, who earlier this week announced that he will step down as Japan coach after the World Cup.
“If you put things in perspective, today we beat a team that has qualified for the World Cup by 40 points. We haven’t won a World Cup game in 24 years.
“Now we’ve got to get better than we were today. We should have won by 60 points today. Our scrum was good, our lineout was effective, we kept them to zero points, and for the first time this season we started to get a bit of rhythm in our attack. There were some real positives.”
Japan plays its final warmup game against Georgia in Gloucester on Sept. 5 before opening its World Cup campaign against South Africa in Brighton on Sept. 19. Japan also faces Samoa, Scotland and the United States in Pool B.
“Throughout this week, each player has gotten a sense of their own responsibility,” said Japan captain Michael Leitch. “We were able to concentrate on what we needed to do to win this game and what we need to do to win at the World Cup.
“We still need to show more aggression than technique at the breakdown. To do that we need a different mentality, and hopefully next week’s game against Georgia will put us in a good frame of mind.”
Uruguay’s chances took an early hit when scrum half Agustin Ormaechea was sent to the sin bin after only five minutes, and Japan took advantage by scoring the first try of the evening in his absence.
The Brave Blossoms made inroads into Uruguayan territory with a powerful drive through the center, before spinning the ball out for Goromaru to cross the line and then add the conversion himself.
Minutes later, Ono bagged another. Livewire winger Matsushima opened up space with an explosive burst forward, before Ono sealed the deal by bludgeoning his way over the line.
Broadhurst claimed another try in the 25th minute — with Goromaru slotting the conversion from the touchline — but momentum soon dropped and Uruguay was unlucky to head into halftime still scoreless after a good period of pressure.
Japan regained the initiative after the restart as Matsushima collected a quickly improvised pass from Goromaru to score in the corner, before Tui added another minutes later.
Fukuoka then rounded off an excellent passing move to score Japan’s sixth and final try in the 67th minute, and the defense held firm to keep the visitors off the scoreboard for the rest of the game.
“We made too many mistakes,” said Uruguay coach Pablo Lemoine, whose side also lost to Japan 30-8 in Fukuoka last Saturday and must now face host England, Australia, Wales and Fiji at the World Cup.
“I think we started the game in the wrong way. It’s very difficult at that level when you have some problems in defense. When we recovered the ball, we lost it immediately.
“Our attitude was not good enough for this kind of game. We have to work in many ways in our union, especially in the team because some players disrespected our shirt and the Japanese rugby union.”