WARWICK, ENGLAND – The Brave Blossoms have moved to Shakespeare country and will be hoping it’s a case of “Once more unto the breach,” when they take on Samoa on Oct. 3 in their third game at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
A day after its disappointing 45-10 loss to Scotland, Japan head coach Eddie Jones was still hopeful his side could reach the quarterfinals for the first time in its history.
“We’ve got the most important part of the World Cup to come,” he said Thursday at the team’s country retreat.
Jones said he took full responsibility for the loss to the Scots, saying he got a number of things wrong.
“I got the selection wrong and I didn’t have the players mentally right,” he said. “That’s my responsibility and I will take responsibility for the defeat and the performance.”
When asked to expand on how he got things wrong, Jones said a number of players had been unable to “back up their performance” of the opening weekend.
On the opposite side of the spectrum Jones praised the performances of Michael Leitch, Michael Broadhurst, Ayumu Goromaru and Harumichi Tatekawa.
“Those four players have been real pillars,” he said. “At World Cups players either shrink or grow and those four have been growing game by game.”
Despite the loss, Jones said the team was still on track to make the last eight.
“At the start of the tournament if we said we would have one win and one loss at this stage we would be pretty happy,” he explained. “So while it is disappointing we could have won two, we are in the perfect situation to achieve our goal of making the last eight. We need to win our next two games. And if we beat Samoa we are in the perfect position to make the quarterfinals.”
With a much longer turnaround before they take on Samoa, Jones said he would give the players a little time off before they start preparing for the physical threat the Pacific islanders will bring.
“Samoa will be a very different game,” he said. “South Africa and Samoa are very strong set piece teams. But Samoa and the United States (which Japan faces on Oct. 11) are more unstructured sides. So the way we will attack them will be different.”
When asked if Japan’s failure to get any bonus points in the opening games could harm Japan’s chance of making the last eight, Jones said he was only concentrating on winning the remaining two games.
“We can’t worry about that,” he said. “We just have to win. If we win three games at the World Cup that means we are 300 percent better than all the last Japan teams over the past 24 years. If we miss out on a quarterfinal spot because of bonus points, then so be it.”