new ordeal for the Brave Blossoms against the XV of France

Japan meets the blues this Saturday morning (8am) in the opening of the summer tour. Their first real meeting since… the 2019 World Cup!

Rarely has a “test match” for the Japanese national rugby team earned its name in such a way. A year before the World Cup, the Brave Blossoms will play XV of France for the first time this Saturday (8am French time) in Toyota (central Japan), and a second time the following week in Tokyo. A real test by fire as the questions hang over her.

Between the World Cup match against South Africa in October 2019 and that against Australia in October 2021, Japanese players have not played a single international matchrecalls Abby Hall, a rugby consultant based in Tokyo. “ We’re lagging behind a lot in the friendlies. In addition, some of our regular players are injured. The only solution is to persevereJamie Joseph explained Thursday at a press conference.

The national team had emerged as the big winners of the 2019 World Cup: four years after the “divine surprise” against South Africa (34:32), Japan had transformed the Test on its soil by beating successively Russia, Ireland, Samoa and Scotland. What fruits have the Brave Blossoms reaped from this three years later? We do not know yet. The main reason: the equine therapy used by Japanese institutions for Covid-19.

Without pursuing Chinese-style “zero cases,” Japanese society has been striving to collectively eradicate the virus for the last two years, and shames any behavior seen as “irresponsible“: superfluous contacts, trips abroad… This health extremism prompted the Brave Blossoms to cancel their participation in the Autumn Cup of Nations in November 2020.

Japanese rugby lived in a bubble for two years

In general, Japanese rugby lived in a bubble for two years: weeks of training behind closed doors with no contact to the outside world (neither fans, nor even relatives), matches with audience measurement (but separately in the stands, no alcohol, no shouts of encouragement). The national team has been divided into different groups with separate training sessions. For two years without international matches.

World No. 10 Brave Blossoms are certainly done with their old demons. The Japanese are now physically on par with their opponents. “They are 14th in the world in terms of weight. Your game is collective and fast‘ concludes Abby Hall. This team has an advantage that’s rarely emphasized: their ability to recharge their batteries and avoid injuries outside of games, giving them relative freshness on the field late into a tournament.

They follow a very strict training ethic. You are very conscientiousobserves Robbie Deans, ex-All Black and since 2014 coach of the Panasonic Wild Knights, winners of the last two national championships. That physical display will be invaluable against France as the games in Japan are expected to be played in sweltering heat.

“Jamie Joseph played the old guard in the first game and the new generation in the second. It wasn’t perfect, but it was effective. »

Robbie Deans, ex-All Black and coach of the Panasonic Wild Knights

So what to expect on Saturday? Two victorious games against Uruguay (34-15 then 43-7) in mid-June had calmed and given some leads cleared by the legendary Robbie Deans for Le Figaro: “Jamie Joseph brought in the old guard in the first game and the new generation in the second. It wasn’t perfect, but it was effective. Many players experienced their first international meeting on this occasion“.

On Thursday, the manager replaced six out of 15 players in the final game, three of them because they tested positive for Covid-19 according to local press (very valuable hooker, Shota Horie, is not on the team sheet). “We are still at the start‘ Jamie Joseph explained on Thursday. One thing is for sure: The Brave Blossoms should still amaze us.

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