A palpable sense of possibility pervaded the streetside cafes of Nice on a warm, if slightly blustery, Sunday afternoon. Japan’s traveling fans, bearing their trademark red and white stripes, were all smiles, hopeful that an unlikely win would put to bed a four-year cycle that’s given them little else to cheer about.

But the feeling after the Brave Blossoms slumped to a 34-12 defeat against England was less a case of “What if?” and more a case of “What now?”

Japan still has two games left to rescue its Rugby World Cup campaign, but based on recent evidence, its chances of securing back-to-back wins against Samoa and Argentina look increasingly remote.