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Japan's rugby players have their pride back, claims Eddie Jones

Japan coach Eddie Jones believes his players have put the pride back in Japanese rugby regardless of whether they qualify for the World Cup quarter-finals.

The Blossoms hammered Samoa 26-5 in Milton Keynes to move one step closer to progression from the pool stage, a feat the country has never achieved in seven previous attempts.

Their shock victory over South Africa was followed by a tired defeat to Scotland last week, but this win means Jones' side could reach the knock-out stages if they beat the United States in eight days' time.

Before the tournament, Japan had only won one World Cup match, against Zimbabwe in 1991, but they have captured the imagination in the last two weeks with fast, free-flowing rugby.

"When I took the team over four years ago I wanted to put pride back into Japanese rugby," Jones said.

"I coached Japan for the first time in 1996 and I came back in 2010 and I was quite dismayed at the level of rugby in Japan and the level of the national team.

"I watched them the play the All Blacks in the 2011 World Cup and the All Blacks treated it like a training game. I always thought the players were much better than that.

"We've managed to show Japan can produce a serious rugby team and does have serious rugby players."

A penalty try and a score from Akihito Yamada ensured Japan led Samoa 20-0 at half-time and, while the Islanders managed a late consolation through Paul Perez, the result was already beyond doubt.

The victory puts Japan on eight points in Pool B ahead of their final match against the USA, with South Africa on 11 after they beat Scotland, who sit second on 10.

The Springboks also play the USA last, while Scotland face Samoa.

"If we're good enough we'll go through," Jones said.

"We always said we came to this tournament with two targets. One, to be the team of the tournament and two, to make the quarter-finals.

"If we win three games we'll probably end up team of the tournament and we'll achieve one goal.

"If you look at the history of Japanese rugby, we'd won one World Cup game in 24 years. We've already doubled that. We've changed the history of rugby in Japan.

"There's 20 million people who watched the game against Scotland. Five years ago we played a game and there would be 4,000 people there. That's a pretty considerable change.

"Hopefully if we win next week we'll make the quarter-finals but if not, we've achieved a lot for Japanese rugby."

Samoa were outplayed throughout the 80 minutes, but they were also their own worst enemy as three players received yellow cards, including two in three minutes during the first half.

"Unfortunately our discipline from the start cost us," Samoa coach Stephen Betham said.

"They didn't surprise us in any way. It's what we expected.

"Japan has caught up with the rest of the world and we need to step up to the mark every time we play."

Japanese try-scorer Yamada was carried off on a stretcher in the second half after a knock to the head, but Jones does not consider the injury serious.

"I think he might be in line for an Academy award," Jones joked.

"He got knocked out but he looks like he's recovered pretty well. We'll do the appropriate concussion protocol and he should be available for the next game."


From Belfast Telegraph