Rugby

Brave Blossoms play down comments on officiating

by Rich Freeman

Kyodo

Japan defense coach Scott Hansen put aside reports that World Rugby has admitted the referee got three out of four offside calls wrong in the Brave Blossoms’ 19-12 defeat of Ireland last weekend in Shizuoka, saying his team “were only looking forward.”

“Those looking back, that’s their concern,” he said Wednesday. “It was a performance we are proud of. The balance in attack and defense and the ability to come from behind and the leadership were outstanding.

“Knowing that so many Japanese children were inspired won’t be taken away by comments in the media.”

While Ireland coach Joe Schmidt insisted Ireland had no one to blame for its defeat but itself, he told reporters in Kobe on Tuesday that World Rugby had told him mistakes were made by Australian referee Angus Gardner and his assistants in the game.

“We were penalized for offside four times and we’ve now got the feedback that three of those were incorrect calls. People were asking us about our discipline,” Schmidt said.

“It’s pretty hard to keep getting off the line and onto the front foot when you are getting those calls. Two of them were from an assistant referee (Jerome Garces) who is going to be refereeing us on Thursday (against Russia), so we know we’re going to have to be on our best behavior.”

The Irish were penalized nine times to Japan’s six, which Schmidt said was an anomaly.

“One thing I would say about this team is that they try to go out and deliver and, generally speaking, it’s unusual for us to have a higher penalty count than our opponents.”

On Wednesday, Ireland defense coach Andy Farrell weighed in on the issue.

“The only point Joe was trying to make yesterday was that we are a disciplined side and we pride ourselves on our discipline massively,” he said.

Despite the low number of offenses committed by the Brave Blossoms, prop Keita Inagaki said there was still room for improvement when Japan plays Samoa on Saturday.

“We cannot give penalties away. Samoa have a good set piece and lineout and one penalty could cost us the game.”

“We were very disciplined in the last game but we need to reduce the number of penalties even more.”

Pieter Labuschagne said Japan had put aside the heroic efforts at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa and was now simply focusing on Saturday’s game at City of Toyota Stadium.

“Preparation is key, making sure we are 100 percent,” said the flanker, who led the team last time out. “We will focus on what we want to achieve.”

Putting aside the Ireland game, focusing on Samoa and not looking ahead to the final pool game against Scotland was a common theme at Wednesday’s press conference.

“It was a meaningful victory (over Ireland) but we are working on Samoa as we have not achieved our goal (of making the quarterfinals),” said Inagaki.

“We are not thinking of Scotland. We are just focused on Samoa and defense will be crucial. They are very powerful and will attack us. We need to have an attacking mindset, especially at scrum time. We can’t allow them to use their weight. We need to stop them scrumming at 100 percent.”

With Pool A so tight — Japan has nine points, Ireland six, Scotland and Samoa five each and Russia zero — bonus points could be crucial in determining which two teams advance to the knockout stage.

But wing Kotaro Matsushima said the focus for now simply needed to be on getting the win against Samoa.

“If we are on top then the team leaders will make a decision on going for the bonus point, but it depends on how the game is going,” he said.

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