Momentum. They say it’s everything in sports. An unparalleled boost when it’s on your side and so hard to quell when it’s going against you.

Japan left the 2019 Rugby World Cup with bags of it. The Brave Blossoms entered the 2023 competition wondering where it all went.

Much has been made of Japan’s lack of competitive gametime. It has played only 17 matches in the last four years — and won only three (fewer than at the last World Cup alone) — while squads like Ireland, France and Scotland have built entirely new foundations over the same period.