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25 Sep 2007 09:40
Japan’s players have earned respect for their fast-paced running game at the Rugby World Cup. Now they want a win.
Their last chance comes on Tuesday at the Stade Chaban-Delmas in Bordeaux, where they take on a Canada team equally desperate not to go home empty handed.
With both sides already eliminated from Group B, only pride is at stake.
“I think if you ask around the Japanese side has gained respect for the way we played,” their coach John Kirwan said on Monday.
“But we need to translate that into a victory and that would be a good platform to build on, for sure.
“We came here to win two games and at least try hard in every game, but the rugby ball doesn’t always bounce the way you want it.”
Japan’s chances of victory got a boost with news that kicker Shotaro Onishi passed a fitness test on Monday and was confirmed as a starter against Canada.
Japan was trampled 91-3 by the Wallabies in its opening World Cup match, but rebounded to earn a bonus point and a lot of fans in a thrilling 35-31 loss to Fiji, one of the most exciting games of the tournament.
Kirwan’s team was on the wrong end of another thumping when Wales beat them 72-18. But that match in Cardiff will likely be remembered more for a length-of-the-field counterattack try by Japan than the Welsh point tally.
Midway through the first half, Hitoshi Ono pinched the ball from a ruck inside Japan’s 22 and launched a swift passing move that ended with winger Kosuke Endo scoring at the other end.
Kirwan said that, despite the defeats, he has seen plenty to like in his players’ performances.
“I think that the totality of the game against Fiji was the first time I have seen us play 80 minutes. I think implementing the way we want to play against the opposition has been outstanding,” he said. “I know the score against Wales was not what we wanted but, if you studied the game, the first half was pretty good. We were 10 minutes away from putting them under pressure.”
Japan is using its last match of the tournament to try to snap a record 13 game World Cup losing streak that dates back to the team’s only World Cup win to date, a 52-8 defeat of Zimbabwe in 1991.
Canada, which has lost 42-17 to Wales and 29-16 to Fiji, will be keen to win on Tuesday ahead of its last match, a game on Saturday with Australia that the Wallabies are odds-on favorites to win.
“The pressure of getting that vital win is there for both of us,” said Canada scrumhalf and captain Morgan Williams. “They know the stakes they are playing for and we know our stakes as well and we are going to come out just a fiery as they are and it will be a great game. A couple of mistakes is what will cost the game.”
Canada also wants to preserve its record of having won at least once at every World Cup it has contested. It’s best result was reaching the quarterfinal in 1991.
“I read that this morning,” Kirwan said of Canada’s run. “Like I said yesterday, they are a proud nation and a good rugby country.”
Canada coach Ric Suggitt has brought in an all-new back row of Colin Yukes, Adam Kleeberger, and Aaron Carpenter for Tuesday’s game in an attempt to counter Japan’s pace.
“We can’t let Japan get running around and we have seen what they can do in the late stages of a game,” he said.
“Against Fiji that was probably the best four or five minutes of rugby, and against Wales they still put in a kamikaze [effort] in the 80th minute. They are fun to watch and hopefully we will knock the stuffing out of them.”
With Australia already certain of a quarterfinal berth, Wales and Fiji will fight it out for the Group B runner-up spot when they meet in Nantes on Saturday.
Kirwan hopes a victory over Canada will spark a turn around in Japan’s attitude to rugby and allow it to start building for the 2011 tournament.
“We need to change the culture a little bit. We need to change from a culture that was used to losing to a culture that wins and you need results to change,” he said. “You need to win and we need to win.” - Sapa-AP
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