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Japan had to overcome stage fright, says Joseph

Japan 30 Russia 10

Treble yell: Kotaro Matsushima completes his hat-trick
Treble yell: Kotaro Matsushima completes his hat-trick
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

Japan coach Jamie Joseph admitted nerves got to his players in their opening World Cup win over Russia but believes the pressure for next week's clash with Ireland will have to come from within.

The Brave Blossoms were noticeably shaky early on in Tokyo, gifting the underdogs a 7-0 lead with basic errors before Kotaro Matsushima's hat-trick eventually helped them to a 30-10 bonus-point victory.

"I think there's a lot of things in play," said Joseph of playing in front of an expectant home crowd. "The preparation was good and we were confident but you can't train for a game like that, when the players have been waiting four years for it.

"The team has been preparing for this for four years and at times it was obvious the pressure got to us. But I'm proud of how we battled through it and still managed to score 30 points.

"These are the sort of things that come with a World Cup and you have to adapt to them and we did.

"Our players are feeling it physically but we have to get back on the horse for Ireland next week."

Japan will have an extra two days to prepare for that game against Ireland, while the tables will be turned in terms of the weight of expectation.

"We're a tier two team effectively and playing the best (ranked) team in the world," Joseph added.

"With Ireland it's going to be a difficult match. The pressure will be on internally but externally I don't think anybody gives us a shot outside of Japan so maybe that's a step in the right direction."

Russia, who Ireland play third in the pool, were much better than the side that were beaten by Connacht and Jersey during pre-season but ultimately didn't take advantage of the Japanese errors in the first half while making more than a few of their own.

Their coach Lyn Jones said: "Tier one rugby isn't a different level for our players, it's a different sport.

"Unfortunately in the first half there were a few errors which stopped us putting pressure on Japan and allowed them in for scores. That's the way it goes."

Russia have just four days of a turnaround before taking on Samoa in Kumagaya on Tuesday, while Ireland then Scotland follow.

"In the last World Cup, Samoa were seventh seeds," Jones added. "We all respect their ability to produce fantastic players who go on to play all over the world, not just for Samoa.

"They provide a different challenge to Japan.

"The trick for us is to recover, get some fresh legs and come in with more confidence."

JAPAN: W Tupou; K Matsushima, T Lafaele, R Kakamura, L Lemeki; Y Tamura, Y Nagare; K Inagaki, S Horie, A Ai Valu; W can der Walt, J Moore; M Leitch (c), P Labuschagne, K Himeno

Replacements: I Nakajima (for Inagaki, 54), J Koo (for Valu, 54) F Tanaka (for Nagare, 60), A Sakate (for Horie, 60), L Thompson ( for van der Walt, 60), R Matsuda (for Tamara, 60), H Tui (for Leitch, 71)

RUSSIA: V Artemyev (c); G Davydov, D Gerasimov, K Golosnitskiy; Y Kushnarev, V Dorofeev; V Morozov, S Selskii, K Gotovtsev; A Ostrikov, B Fedotko, V Zhivatov, T Gadzhiev, N Vavilin

Replacements: A Garbuzov (for Fedotko, 60), A Sychev, (for Zhivatov, 65), E Matveev (for Selskii, 65), R Gaisin (for Kushnarev, 67), V Sozonob (for Gerasimov, 67), A Bitiev (for Gotovtsev, 67), D Perov (for Forofeev, 73)

Referee: Nigel Owens (WAL)

Man of the match: K Matsushima (Japan)

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